For those who have been living without internet access for last three years, here’s a brief update on the state of the planet to put British rapper and spoken word artist Kate Tempest’s second album in context: the Earth is in a dire state. Rising divisions between rich and poor, and intolerance and miscommunication are everywhere. Meanwhile, the rise of big business continues, while the culture of the self quietly keeps the “modern revolution” – helpfully prophesised by voting-sceptic Russell Brand, among others – pacified.
Kate Tempest came to the attention of many in 2013 with her Mercury Prize-nominated debut album, Everybody Down, an effecting concept album that focused on a young couple, their troubled relationship and hard-bitten city living. With her second album, Let Them Eat Chaos, Tempest has built on her experiences to produce a powerful reflection of life in Britain today, from the high-stakes city workers to the down-and-outs living on the breadline.
The best way to experience Let Them Eat Chaos is to hear it for yourself. As Tempest has said in interviews, words spoken aloud have a different power to those on the page. Briefly though, the album is centred on “seven perfect strangers”, and through the lens of these characters’ inner thoughts and feelings, Tempest delivers sad truths about our desires, our fears and our place on this small planet.
If you’ve ever spent a night out in London, right up to the wee hours of the morning, when the Tube stations close, and drunk boys and bare-footed girls crawl the streets to catch the night bus home, you’ll recognise more than a few of these characters. There’s Zoe, still up at 4:18am, packing, because her landlord’s raised her rent above what she can afford (‘Perfect Coffee’). There’s Pete, “who grew up on this street, but he’s back living at his dad’s so he can save… But every time he gets paid he gets wasted and wakes up with less than he made” (‘Whoops’). And Bradley, a young, single PR guy, from Manchester, who’s quietly dissatisfied with his life, despite his Tinder flings and Friday night booze-ups (‘Pictures on a Screen’).
Suffice to say, Tempest will have your imagination on lockdown. Each of the characters’ vignettes are layered with description and meaning. Producer Dan Carey adds to this vivid, and largely grim, tale of the not-too-distance future with electronic loops both ambient and sinister. ‘Europe is Lost’ and ‘Don’t Fall In’ are two profound pieces of performance poetry. Together, they encapsulate feelings of anxiety, disillusionment and confusion felt by individuals, and the masses at large, today.
Let Them Eat Chaos is a record from a fellow city dweller, a concerned writer, a realist with a pragmatic message: if we don’t change course, our world is doomed. In many ways, it is one of the year’s bleakest albums. But, in a year stricken with the blood of so many innocents, it is an album that should be heard. “What we gonna do to wake up?” Tempest asks repeatedly. Who knows if we’ll ever get an answer to that question? But, in years to come, when you’re lost in the matrix of post-Brexit Britain, Tempest’s second album will give you cause to unplug yourself – handy when you, me and the rest of the world are all still in need of saving.
Let Them Eat Chaos is out now on Fiction Records in UK and Lex Records in the US.
Image: Kate Tempest/PR