The Herd: Summerland


Some time ago I promised you good people and The Herd that I would review their stunning album Summerland. That was about ten months ago. I’m sorry. I got distracted with uni and other writing projects and, after a while, I felt the moment had passed and it was too late. This morning, however, I was like ‘No, Dammit! That album is still awesome and the people must be told!’ So here it is. The Herd’s Summerland. Better late than never.

The Herd: 2020

Right off the bat we can hear that any of my previous complaints about the Herd’s music and production have been rebuked with extreme prejudice. The opening track, 2020, makes the perfect statement to new and old fans of The Herd. The lush production and amazing performance of the band produce a lyrical and melodic slap in the face, expertly designed to shake the listener out of complacency. Ozi Batla and Urthboy are, as always, stunning in their ability to produce simultaneously moving and entertaining lyrics, while Jane Tyrell continues to belt out the catchiest, most soulful original hooks in Australian Hip Hop. The manner in which the three play off one another is masterfully seamless. In every respect, 2020 encapsulates everything that is great about The Herd. It also firmly establishes one of the central lyrical themes of the album (and that of all of The Herd’s albums), Australian politics and socio-cultural criticism. The title itself is pun relating to both the notion of 20/20 vision and the 2020 summit called by Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd in 2007. This song alone touches on such topical issues as Afghanistan, Iraq, the AWB scandal and the change in government from the incumbent conservative, John Howard, to (relative) political newcomer, Kevin Rudd. Which brings us neatly to the album (and band’s) emblematic anthem, The King is Dead.

The Herd: The King is Dead

In their previous releases, The Herd made their political affiliations pretty clear. In fact, roughly 80% of the content of their previous albums was concerned with condemning the presence and policies of the Australian Liberal government of the time. Howard was, for The Herd and the political left-wing in Australia, public enemy number one. It should be no surprise that, when Howard was defeated after four terms as Prime Minister, The Herd would produce this celebration of the end of a dark era in Australian politics. The chorus is, as is the whole album, the most overjoyed and happy thing that the group has ever produced.

We danced like new years eve
We danced from relief
Everything must change, nothing stays the same

It will be hard for those outside of Australia to appreciate all of the cultural and political references in this song and, indeed, in Australian Hip Hop in general. It is, however, no worse than the American cultural and political references we have to decode when listening to Nas or Dr. Dre. Those interested in a full synopsis of the election which resulted in this song (and album) can find it in the links above, to the John Howard and Kevin Rudd wiki pages. There is much, however, that doesn’t relate to the political landscape of Australia in this album. The greatest and strongest quality of The Herd is their social conscience.

The Herd: Black and Blue

I wanted to end the review with an examination of Black and Blue. The group has an amazing ability to tap into the plight of those who are forgotten, marginalized and mistreated by mainstream society. In the past they have produced offerings such as 77%, The Plunderers, a striking cover of Redgum’s I Was Only 19 and Under Pressure; each offered a plainly sympathetic view on an ignored section of society. While other examples of this kind of song exist on Summerland, Black and Blue is the finest example. Exploring the failures of the education system on children with special educational needs (such as those with autism or Asperger’s syndrome) and the social and mental degeneration which results from such a failure is painfully yet elegantly expressed in the chorus of the song:

I don’t wanna go today,
I don’t care for the punishment you’re teaching me
Your methods are not reaching me
I’ll disappear
This place is gone for me

Even for those who did not experience such educational abandonment, the song is loaded with the pathos of an ignored or otherwise wronged teenager. Once more, the instrumentation, production and vocals are immaculate and completely appropriate to their subject matter. This song, along with the whole album, marks a musical maturation for The Herd and confirms them as Australian Hip Hop royalty. Copies are available here and on iTunes, for those who like what they hear above.


~ by Morgan on July 9, 2009.

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