A colleague of mine regularly decries musical theatre as ‘choreographed public disorder’. Life can’t be easy for him, working as we do within earshot of several West End productions. I, on the other hand, love musical theatre and always have done. In the manner of many children of the 1980s, I saw things growing steadily worse under a Conservative government and I despaired of the drab, donkey-jacketed methods of resistance which we offered to it. And then at the age of nine I was dragged to see Les Miserables, because a clause in the contract of every parent in south-east Wales between 1987 and 1992 stated that they had, at least once in a lifetime, to descend upon London’s Theatreland en masse, attend a musical, block the traffic on Charing Cross Road like slightly less belligerent sheep while queueing to get back on their coach, and sniff disparagingly at every other aspect of the city, before travelling back to the Valleys and reverting to the curious folk belief that London doesn’t actually exist.
But at Les Miz, suddenly it all made sense. This was how popular resistance should be done and the ills of society revealed: all-singing, all-dancing, all unashamedly camp, mawkish and righteous, with a drippy love-story subplot marginal enough to happily ignore. See also Jesus Christ Superstar, because casting the New Testament as a story of popular resistance to an occupying force did more to momentarily interest me in the Bible than a month of Sundays at chapel.
Since I attained adolescence, the only aspect of popular culture that’s really displayed an understanding of the glory of social and political criticism through affectionate spoofing of musical theatre has been South Park the Movie. But here are the Indelicates, still the best band around right now, whose project on the life and death of David Koresh has at last taken flight. I’ll be writing a proper review of this soon, but for now here it is, on the workers’ co-operative Corporate Records, for as much as you would like to pay for it. (Please do pay something, it’s great.)
NB I love musical theatre, but I do hate concept albums. This is a concept album, but I’m choosing to overlook that because of how good it is. If only everything in life was as reliable as the Indelicates, eh Harold?