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    Most Popular Songs (more)

    1Kill Kill Kill Kill lyrics
    The International Narcotics Traffic lyrics
    3Can The Haves Use Their Brains lyrics
    4The Drinking Song Of The Merchant Bankers lyrics
    The Home Secretary Briefs The Forces Of Law And Order lyrics
    6The Enemy Is At Home (For The Fat Lady) lyrics
    7I'm On The Side Of Mankind As Much As The Next Man lyrics
    Boy Meets Girl So What lyrics
    Use A Band I'd Rather Die lyrics
    10With One Eye On Getting Their Pay lyrics

    Most Popular Albums (more)

    1Banking, Violence And The Inner Life Today [1990]
    I Am A Wallet [1987]
    3That's All Very Well But... [1996]
    4The Enraged Will Inherit The Earth [1989]


    McCarthy was a band from the late 80's / early 90's originating in Barking, Essex, England and consisting of Gary Baker on drums, Malcolm Eden on guitar and vocals, Tim Gane on lead guitar, John Williamson on bass, and, toward the very end of the group's career, Laetitia Sadier on backup vocals. Tim later married Laetitia and the two went on to form Stereolab. Malcolm also served as lyricist, and it was the combination of his politically charged lyrics and Tim's poppy guitar work that ultimately determined McCarthy's sound.

    Named for the infamous US Senator Joseph McCarthy, who led the Communist witch hunt here in the 1950's, McCarthy were ironic to say the least. Due to their chosen name and politically charged lyrics, as often satirically far right as they were sincerely far left, as well as their rumored association with the Revolutionary Communist Party in England, most critics were quick to label McCarthy as "Marxist" or "anarchist" rock and roll. The band, for their part, didn't take themselves quite as seriously. from left to right: Gary, Malcolm, Tim, and JohnMalcolm's lyrics are filled to bursting with irony, humor, and contradiction. Moreover, one would be hard pressed to find one of McCarthy's songs where the speaker is truly representative of any of the band member's own political views.

    More than politics, McCarthy seemed focused on espousing views of common sense--or at least, their own view of what common sense ought to be. Throughout their three LP's and various singles, one can hear the phrase "use your brain" repeated over and over. This sort of forthrightness eclipsed any political ideology: in "Antinature," for example, Malcolm takes a direct departure from the conventional left- wing thinking and declares his support for nuclear power, taking a then popular Greenpeace slogan, "Nuclear power? No thanks!" and twisting it around to his own end. Indeed, no one, right or left, was safe from the biting wit of McCarthy. In "New Left Review #2," for example, Malcolm mocks an ignorant and complacent union boss, leaning back in his comfortable chair after losing a labor dispute, and pondering, "Did we speak to strong? / We'll speak much softer next time." On "Use A Bank I'd Rather Die," the band appears to lash out at the very label that had been assigned to them by the music press, ridiculing those so far to the left that they will make no ideological compromise no matter how practical or necessary it may be: the enemy's of the left use guns, money, and thought; therefore, we will not use violence, banks, or our brains.

    On a macro level I like to see McCarthy as a kind of journey through England under Margaret Thatcher (and her counterpart in then US President Ronald Reagan), under the far right regime and social thinking that characterized the 1980's--privatization, disinvestment, economic uncertainty, unemployment, a conservative backlash, and the beginnings of the raiding of England and Europe by American corporations. Along the way we are introduced to various characters or archetypes: MP's, merchant bankers, shareholders, captains of industry, members of British government such as the Home Secretary, complacent labor activists, the indigent in ditches and traveling with their children asleep at their feet, extremists on both ends of the political spectrum, and the confused and uncertain middle who inevitably come to see things the way the conservative establishment wants them to. The two tracks that symbolize this theme most explicitly would have to be "The Procession of Popular Capitalism," wherein a detached observer follows a gathering crowd of free market forces parading around the streets of London, eventually absorbing members from all sectors of society; and "We Are All Bourgeois Now," wherein an impoverished parent, initially uncertain of how they have become poor or what direction to take to remedy their poverty, wanders about Britain "with holes in my shoes and my children asleep at my feet" finally meeting a "man with money to spend" who informs the traveler of the seeming panacea implicit in the song's title: essentially, it is the same message inherent in the so-called American dream, that success (financial stability) is proportionate only to one's effort. If you're poor, it's because you are lazy. The class war is over, if it ever was on to begin with, and today we are all middle class.The band as a fivesome

    The final message in "We Are All Bourgeois Now" might sound cynical or pessimistic, and it's another theme found again and again in Malcolm's lyrics. In the musically bright but lyrically dark "The Way of the World," we get a narrative similar to "We Are All..." with the speaker immediately overruling the ideal of romantic love with his need for food and shelter. Similar conclusions are also drawn by characters in "St Francis Amongst the Mortals," "The Wicked Palace Revolution," "The Funeral," "We Are All Born Creeps," "All Your Questions Answered," "I'm on the Side of Mankind as Much as the Next Man," "And Tomorrow the Stock Exchange Will Be the Human Race," and "The Drinking Song of the Merchant Bankers."

    Like similarly caustic and political 1980's English rockers The Fall, McCarthy have few love songs, if any. The most explicit would have to be "Bad Dreams," b-side to "The Well of Loneliness." "An MP Speaks" is also a contender, if admittedly misplaced. There is also "You're Alive," a track even rarer than "Bad Dreams" in which the narrator clings to the warm and breathing flesh of his lover for solace in the face of political and cultural turmoil.

    Not surprisingly due to their confrontational, antiestablishment style and caustic honesty, McCarthy were largely unappreciated in their time, achieving little recognition from the music press beyond the keen ears of John Peel. Unfortunately, many today view them as simply a footnote in Stereolab's history. Yet despite their undeniably indie status, the band did seem to make a significant impact on the youth of England in their day, with many British music fans still remembering them even if just for single "The Well of Loneliness" or for the band's inclusion on the famous NME compilation C86. Serious fans are also often curious as to what came before Stereolab, and will inevitably stumble upon McCarthy's discography in their travels. McCarthy has also been named time and time again by Welsh political rockers Manic Street Preachers as a key influence--the Manics have even covered two McCarthy tracks, "Charles Windsor" and "We Are All Bourgeois Now," the former an all out punk / metal remake and the latter more of a no-frills cover version. Sadly, any initiatives on the part of potential fans tend to fall flat in the face of McCarthy's relative obscurity both in the music press and industry.

    However, if one is motivated enough to seek out McCarthy's back catalogue, they will not go unrewarded. It is the hope of this page that potential fans will be able to utilize the links and transcriptions here to educate themselves on one of the greatest bands most have never heard of.

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