With ‘Europe Is Lost’, there can be little doubt that Kate Tempest is now the UK’s greatest working lyricist. If we were released in the ’70s it would have stood right up alongside ‘Gangsters’ by The Specials and PiL’s ‘Public Image’, and would have probably arrived fully-formed in the pages of NME via a double page advertisement of the the striking sleeve art (above).
As it is, we get a streamable sermon of disgust that’s both crushed and mad sounding, an ultimately empty lament delivered from Tempest both in character and out to the “BoredOfItAll generation” (her words) at the fag end of a culture vortex which now, through her eyes, simmers at breaking point.
It’s the most thrillingly reactive single to come out of England since Ben Watt and Estelle made their London-centric ‘Pop A Cap In Yo Ass’ back in 2005. It bests anything Plan B’s ever done, seriously raises the game for Skepta and takes the blueprint laid down by all those doomed ‘indie poets’ of the past 15 years like Mike Skinner, Pete Doherty and Dizzie Rascal, completing what they started before fame sent them down vastly different paths.
Word is it wasn’t even due for release until next year, but Tempest and producer Dan Carey felt they couldn’t hold it back any longer. You can literally feel that in her delivery too; childlike, almost drunk sounding but always, always eagle-eyed.
Sure, people will be drawn in by the cheap thrill lines (“Live porn streamed to your pre-teens bedrooms”, “Caught sniffing lines off a prostitutes prosthetic tits”), but I think there’s wordplay as nifty as anything ‘the greats’ (here’s looking at you Moz and MIA) have done any time here too. “Top down violence, structural viciousness” is evil Jarvis, while “Massacres massacres massacres/new shoes” is where the courageous and banal meet, which is the exact reason art pop was ever invented. And that’s before we even get to the utterly perfect line about Cameron’s pig, which I won’t spoil for you.
It’s the overall message that hits home hardest. You wait ages for a decent protest song, and then this – one of the greatest ever, possibly – comes along roaring. It’s the sound of pure defeat in 2015, of drowning and not waving. And it has rarely ever sounded so sweet.
Stream the track above and read the lyrics below:
Europe is lost, America lost, London is lost,
Still we are clamouring victory.
All that is meaningless rules,
And we have learned nothing from history.
People are dead in their lifetimes,
Dazed in the shine of the streets.
But look how the traffic keeps moving.
The system’s too slick to stop working.
Business is good. And there’s bands every night in the pubs,
And there’s two for one drinks in the clubs.
We scrubbed up well
We washed off the work and the stress
Now all we want’s some excess
Better yet; A night to remember that we’ll soon forget.
All of the blood that was shed for these cities to grow,
All of the bodies that fell.
The roots that were dug from the ground
So these games could be played
I see it tonight in the stains on my hands.
The buildings are screaming
I cant ask for help though, nobody knows me,
Hostile and worried and lonely.
We move in our packs and these are the rights we were born to
Working and working so we can be all that want
Then dancing the drudgery off
But even the drugs have got boring.
Well, sex is still good when you get it.
To sleep, to dream, to keep the dream in reach
To each a dream,
Don’t weep, don’t scream,
Just keep it in,
Keep sleeping in
What am I gonna do to wake up?
I feel the cost of it pushing my body
Like I push my hands into pockets
And softly I walk and I see it, it’s all we deserve
The wrongs of our past have resurfaced
Despite all we did to vanquish the traces
My very language is tainted
With all that we stole to replace it with this,
I am quiet,
Feeling the onset of riot.
But riots are tiny though,
Systems are huge,
The traffic keeps moving, proving there’s nothing to do.
It’s big business baby and its smile is hideous.
Top down violence, structural viciousness.
Your kids are doped up on medical sedatives.
But don’t worry bout that. Worry bout terrorists.
The water levels rising! The water levels rising!
The animals, the polarbears, the elephants are dying!
Stop crying. Start buying.
But what about the oil spill?
Shh. No one likes a party pooping spoil sport.
Massacres massacres massacres/new shoes
Ghettoised children murdered in broad daylight by those employed to protect them.
Live porn streamed to your pre-teens bedrooms.
Glass ceiling, no headroom. Half a generation live beneath the breadline.
Oh but it’s happy hour on the high street,
Friday night at last lads, my treat!
All went fine till that kid got glassed in the last bar,
Place went nuts, you can ask our Lou,
It was madness, the road ran red, pure claret.
And about them immigrants? I cant stand them.
Mostly, I mind my own business.
But they’re only coming over here to get rich.
It’s a sickness.
And you wonder why kids want to die for religion?
Work all your life for a pittance,
Maybe you’ll make it to manager,
Pray for a raise
Cross the beige days off on your beach babe calendar.
Anarchists desperate for something to smash
Scandalous pictures of glamorous rappers in fashionable magazines
Who’s dating who?
Politico cash in an envelope
Caught sniffing lines off a prostitutes prosthetic tits,
And it’s back to the house of lords with slapped wrists
They abduct kids and fuck the heads of dead pigs
But him in a hoodie with a couple of spliffs –
Jail him, he’s the criminal
It’s the BoredOfItAll generation
The product of product placement and manipulation,
Shoot em up, brutal, duty of care,
Come on, new shoes.
Bullshit saccharine ballads
And here’s me outside the palace of ME!
Construct a self and psyhcosis
And meanwhile the people are dead in their droves
But nobody noticed,
Well actually, some of them noticed,
You could tell by the emoji they posted.
Sleep like a gloved hand covers our eyes
The lights are so nice and bright and lets dream
But some of us are stuck like stones in a slipstream
What am I gonna do wake up?
We are lost
We are lost
We are lost
And still nothing
We have ambitions and friends and our courtships to think of
Divorces to drink off the thought of
The planet is shaking and spoiled
Life is a plaything
A garment to soil
The toil the toil.
I cant see an ending at all.
Only the end.
How is this something to cherish?
When the tribesmen are dead in their deserts
To make room for alien structures,
Kill what you find if it threatens you.
No trace of love in the hunt for the bigger buck,
Here in the land where nobody gives a fuck.