The Sound of Revolution, Grae J. WallThe pamphlet is large and wide, not the usual shape. Background is white, and text slightly old-fashioned in style, a little bit like large typewriter script. All text is centred, first the author's name, then the title (same size). Then there is a large monochrome photograph of a shop, perhaps a music shop. The shop window is mainly filled with a huge photograph of a woman. It could be a poster advertising a singer. There's also a bicycle propped against the window, and the shop door is wide open, with a chair propping it open. A subtitle is centred below the photo: it reads 'beat poems & anxious gasps'., 2020   £7.00

Spinning out

Wall has dropped the definitive article in his title, so we need to give the matter serious thought. This may sound like pedantry, but it’s important. What does the sound of revolution sound like?

It is possibly fairly noisy, but you’ve got to define your terms and the moment, before you can reach for your noise meter.

Forget the Bastille and storming workers. Consider a record. Think vinyl. A record makes plenty of noise on the turntable, but what we get is the sound of the music being caused by the revolution, not the sound of the revolution itself.

The title poem here, as well as the opening piece, does explain what revolution sounds like, but not before we’ve been told what it doesn’t sound like.

It doesn’t sound like many things. For example ‘The sound of revolution / is not in a thrashed guitar / Or a didgeridoo’. (FYI, more poems should mention didgeridoos.)

I chose the previous quotation not least because the big point of interest in these poems for me is the musical references. My interest is fired by references to the 1980s Antifolk movement in ‘Antiantifolk’; and there's ‘The Beatles and The Stones’ in ‘The Breath that we Share’; and ‘The sound of Martha Reeves and the Vandellas’ in ‘One Simple Day’.

But the musical references reach a crescendo in ‘Beat Walking Blues (28/07/2019)’ with its multiple allusions to ‘Sam Cooke in the Filli Café’, ‘Madonna’, ‘Elvis Costello’, ‘The Street Cats’ and Pink Floyd and ‘The Low Stars’.

However, perhaps the most evocative of the musical poems is ‘1982’, the lines of which run on without punctuation like the grooves in a record, as we hear the author reminiscing:

I kinda miss those days
Paris discotheques and cigarettes
Twelve inch coloured vinyl fix
Just riding the crest of a brave new wave
Suburban cavaliers on a mission
To shock and thrill in equal measure

In recent years we’ve seen book launches accompanied by Spotify playlists or CDs of the music mentioned by the author. I suspect Grae J. Wall could knock out a pretty strong mix CD to support The Sound of Revolution.

Mat Riches