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Sharp Political Dissent Gets a Sugary Coating

Personalizing political dissent in music isn’t easy, especially if the goal is to create an artistic statement that will outlast the politics of the moment. British electronica wizard Matthew Herbert specializes in writing epigrammatic lyrics cloaked in wistful soundscapes, and while his verses often steer away from the details of his dissent, he gets highly specific in his sonic sources for music samples.

Herbert refuses to sample any other person’s music, replicate traditional acoustic instruments or use drum machines. Instead, he employs the dripping sounds of petrol pumps to ignite “We’re in Love,” a subversive lament for the end of the oil age. Distinguished by sweeping strings, a gentle piano melody, dreamy horns, and Dani Sicilliano’s winsome voice, “We’re in Love” initially comes off like an early-’70s R&B ballad in the tradition of the Chi-Lites or Friends of Distinction.

But underneath the song’s sublime exterior, Herbert details an apocalyptic world of depleting natural resources. “Though we can’t believe it, we've built a world to breathe it / And when we need to face it, it won’t be there,” Sicilliano coos, before singing, “You know it’s the best when you’ve laid it to rest.” Once the politics of “We’re in Love” become clear, its sentiments become all the more bittersweet.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

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John Murph
John Murph writes about music and culture and works as a web producer for He also contributes regularly to The Washington Post Express, JazzTimes, Down Beat, and JazzWise magazines.