“This is not what I wanted. This is not what I had in mind.”
Those lyrics from Moderat’s grimly fiendish breakbeat critique “Bad Kingdom” have been stuck in my head for the first half of today. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s been raining all morning. Or that I have an irritating neighbor hellbent on remodeling her place 24-7 … in the loudest manner possible. Or perhaps it’s something bigger, like a harmful and unnecessary government shutdown. Or more pervasive, like a rampant form of consumerism and development that’s far exceeding tolerance levels. Yeah, there’s been a lot on my mind lately. So Moderat’s grimey electronic protest seems to fit the bill.
“Bad Kingdom” isn’t an outright political track, though. It’s more a tale of social contrasts, depicting haves and have nots, suggesting desires and frustrations, power and powerlessness. At heart, it’s an electronically-driven pop song. And lyrically, it’s quite a simple tome. But it’s effectiveness comes from its clarity, even if not addressed directly … or with more requisite intensity. There’s still underlying passion and emotion, all lurking beneath the somewhat polite and impassive vocal intonations. You just have to read between the lyrical lines.
Musically, Moderat strikes that balance between relatable techno, asymmetrical breakbeat rhythms, and seemingly non-specific pop vocalization. I hear the German trio sometimes get criticized for this. But I’m not entirely sure why. Electronic music has always been a delivery vehicle for conflicting genres, absorbing and remodeling, restructuring and redefining, with fresh and innovative points of view. And Moderat is no different.
Moderat, for the curious, is a collaboration between two renown German electronic acts, Modeselektor and Apparat, the latter of which I covered briefly in this previous post. “Bad Kingdom” is the lead track from their 2013 album, succinctly titled “II,” standing apart as one of a couple vocal-driven numbers, amongst its vaster sea of inspired minimalist instrumentals.
Granted, “Bad Kingdom” might be more pop than progressive – albeit a dirtier, dustier brand of accessibility. But it’s a clever balance that strikes the right tone, allowing music to meet message on level ground. It certainly matches my current mindset, and most definitely will serve as call to action for future moodswings. I won’t go so far as to say it offers hope. But it does clarify the need for it.
Here’s Moderat’s “Bad Kingdom” to get the thoughts rolling.
“Bad Kingdom” from the 2013 album “II”.
And just to enunciate the point further, here’s Moderat’s not-so-subtle official music video, offering a powers-of-ten dive through an illustrated tale of power, greed, and corruption, as noirishly told through one man’s descent into Britain’s ’60s criminal underworld.