The British progressive rock band Jethro Tull released The Zealot Gene on January 28, the first recording of all new music by the group in more than twenty years. With words and music written by founder-leader Ian Anderson, the new record is a legitimate addition to the discography of the band, which started in Blackpool (a seaside resort on Englands northwest coast) playing the blues in 1967 and went on to become an internationally successful progressive rock group in the 1970s.
The new album contains a mixture of acoustic songs and heavier rock tracks featuring the eclectic blend of musical styles and influences that are central to Jethro Tulls sound. Also, the lyrics demonstrate Andersons affinity for story-telling and commentary on current and historical social phenomena from unique, not to say eccentric, points of view.
In keeping with progressive rocks concept album format, The Zealot Gene is comprised of twelve songs that reference Biblical text as inspiration for an exploration of human emotions such as compassion, tolerance, loyalty, love, jealousy, greed and hate.
As Anderson explains in the liner notes, he is not a man of faith when it comes to conventional, organized religions, but the Bible verses fueled my songwriting and were the starting point for elaborating examples of extreme feelings from different vantage points. While he typically finds images like photos or paintings to prompt his observational lyrics, the trigger this time was, immortal words from 1611 [King James Bible] which, for me, immediately conjure visual images that can be used to interpret and vocalize the subject matter.
If listeners have occasionally been baffled in the past by Andersons sometimes abstruse metaphors and colloquial adages, they will welcome the supporting material in the CD packaging. The words for each song appear along with the associated Bible verse and track notes explain what the songs are about. Listeners can also watch a series of video interviews with Ian Anderson on the bands YouTube channel where he reviews the creative process, the album concept and the production process, which were interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Studio work on the album began in 2017 and, due to touring and other project obligations, seven backing tracks were recorded, and four tracks were completed before the pandemic hit in early 2020. The balance of the album was produced long distance with members of the bandDavid Goodier on bass, John OHara on keyboards, Florian Opahle and Joe Parrish-James on guitar and Scott Hammond on drumsrecording their parts separately from their home studios and sending them in to Anderson for the final mixing and mastering. Longtime Jethro Tull lead guitarist Martin Barre does not appear on the new album, having departed the band for a solo career in 2011.
The title track of The Zealot Gene unmistakably references would-be American dictator Donald Trump, with the lines, The populist with dark appeal / The pandering to hate / Which xenophobic scaremongers / Deliver on the plate.
Anderson writes in the track notes, As a song lyric; it sums up, for me, the divisive nature of societal relationships and the extreme views which fuel the fires of hate and prejudice Perhaps you think you know who I might have been thinking about here but, in reality, there are probably now at least five prominent dictatorial international figures who could fit the bill.
We have, needless to say, significant problems with the idea that humans are genetically preconditioned for extremism, whether in the form of contemporary right-wing populism or in the referenced biblical verse from Ezekiel about the slaughter of idolators with battle axes in Jerusalem. For one, it incorrectly attributes the source of ideological and political conflict to biology instead of socio-economic interests.
However, Anderson seems to be using the zealot gene as a device to advocate for middle-of-the-road political moderation and to warn of unintended consequences when social media is used uncritically or made a barrier to political discourse. He writes in the liner notes, It is almost as if we have some genetic component driving us toward that sub-intellectual graffiti for which the outlet, these days, is let loose by the aerosol spray of social media.
While opposing, prejudice, xenophobia and hard right conservatism, he also takes a swipe at wokeness, calling it a trendy and overworked viewpoint that can all-too-easily stifle the process of the direct exchange of views.
The other tracks on the album are less problematic. The opening song, Mrs. Tibbets, was inspired by the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19:24-28. The song examines the barbaric bombing of the Japanese city of Hiroshima by the US Air Force on the morning of August 6, 1945. Brigadier General Paul Tibbets flew the heavy bomber, a Boeing B-29 Superfortress called the Enola Gay, which he personally named after his mother the previous day.
The lyrics portray the rationalizations given to Mrs. Tibbets to justify the mass murder: Dont feel bad, they said, about the numbers / Dont feel bad about the melting heat / The burning flesh, the soft white cell demise. / And the shattered ground beneath the trembling feet.
The line in the chorus, Mrs. Tibbets little boy, makes a double reference to her pilot son and the codename for the five-ton bomb. Little Boy was the first nuclear weapon used in warfare and the first of two atomic bombs dropped on Japan as ordered by US President Harry S. Truman. Estimates of the number killed by US imperialism in the two blasts range from 130,000 to 215,000 people.
Of course, a big part of Jethro Tulls sound is Andersons use of the flute as a rock music instrument. While he is not the only artist to do it, he is the most well-known and he has an immediately recognizable style. In crafting songs about intense emotion, Anderson shows that the concert flute can be made to express a variety of feelings and this range is extended by his signature multiphonic vocalizations. The impact of the technique comes through in the portrayal of an angry Old Testament God in the track, Mine is the Mountain.
Another method Anderson has used is to play the flute in unison or harmony with the electric guitar. This is done effectively on the opening riff to The Betrayal of Joshua Kynde, an allegorical tale about deception among cold war spies. Other instruments such as harmonica, mandolin, Irish whistle, acoustic guitar and accordion make their appearance on the lighter tracks such as Jacobs Tales, Sad City Sisters and Three Loves, Three.
Using Bible verse to either express agnosticism or question Christian doctrine is not new for the band. Jethro Tulls most popular album Aqualung, released in 1971, has sold more than three million copies and contains a preamble in the liner notes which is a rewriting of Genesis 1:1, In the beginning Man created God; and in the image of Man created he him.
At that time, Aqualung was banned from radio play in Spain by the fascist regime of Francisco Franco and there were publicized burnings of the record in the US by some Bible Belt evangelicals. However, the ideas critical of the Christian church in tracks like My God, Hymn 43 and Wind Up also intermingled with the rebellious moods among the youth and contributed to the rising global popularity of Jethro Tull.
Anderson, 74, became the sole leader and creative force of Jethro Tull in 1969 after the departure of founding guitarist Mick Abrahams. Following the release of their first album This Was, the two clashed over the artistic direction of the group. Abrahams wanted Jethro Tull to remain a blues-based band and Anderson, influenced by the Beatles Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band and Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention, wanted to move in a more experimental direction.
Following the success of Aqualung, Jethro Tull rode a wave of mass progressive rock popularity with bands like Pink Floyd, Genesis, Emerson Lake and Palmer and Yes, and released a studio album every year through 1980. The albums were followed by world tours, with live performances before sold-out crowds at arenas on five continents. During these years, Ian Andersons stage antics and costumes played directly into criticisms of progressive rock as pretentious and bombastic.
Among the more remarkable accomplishments of Jethro Tull during those years was that two concept albums with 45 minutes of continuous complex music and dense lyricsThick as a Brick (1972) and A Passion Play (1973)both rose to number one on the US charts. While the rock music press generally panned these records, listening audiences embraced them.
Later in the decade, the band pursued a folk-rock direction and with Songs from the Wood (1977), Heavy Horses (1978) and Stormwatch (1979) that melded ethnic acoustic instruments and Scottish musical themes with heavy electric guitar riffs and rhythms. The lyrics on these records articulated Andersons concerns about industrial society, population growth and dwindling natural resources.
While the popularity of progressive rock faded in the 1980s and beyond, many of the most popular groups were able to continue by making new music and/or performing live concerts for their fans. The onset of the pandemic disrupted these cycles and, with most of the musicians now in their mid-to-late 70s, they have had to find new ways of interacting with audiences and to figure out what they will do in their later years.
With The Zealot Gene, Ian Anderson and Jethro Tull have released an engaging album. Whether listeners choose to enjoy the music or become involved with the conceptual elements, the album provides both new and old audiences with an opportunity to learn about one of the more thoughtful and significant artists of the era.
Sign up for the WSWS email newsletter
See the original post:
- Long live populism - spiked - August 15th, 2022
- Populism Rising: Le Pen Makes Historic Gains, as Macron ... - Breitbart - August 15th, 2022
- Forced nationalism and perils of populism The Leaflet - The Leaflet - August 15th, 2022
- Laura Ingraham: Voters might say its time to turn the page on Trump - WGN TV Chicago - August 15th, 2022
- A reflection for the twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time - U.S. Catholic magazine - August 15th, 2022
- If Poilievre wins leadership, but fails to pivot to the centre, Quebec Tory MP Godin says he will 'reflect' on his own 'future political life' - The... - August 15th, 2022
- Revdi-nomics - Times of India - August 15th, 2022
- What happened to American conservatism? Engaging Matthew Continetti's The Right - Baptist News Global - August 15th, 2022
- The moral failings of the developmental state - The Hindu - August 15th, 2022
- Race to 10 Downing Street : How the next Reaganite could further deter relations with the EU Le Taurillon - thenewfederalist.eu - August 15th, 2022
- The return of Sarah Palin: how the Tea Party star is plotting a comeback - The Telegraph - August 15th, 2022
- Inclusive populism wont fly and other commentary - New York Post - July 31st, 2022
- Textbook Reactionary Populism - The Duck of Minerva - July 31st, 2022
- One of the worlds leading populism experts says Pierre Poilievre isnt quite a populist - The Hub - July 31st, 2022
- Populism, development, and the drama of White Rock politics - CBC - July 31st, 2022
- Rishi Sunak's desperate attempt at populism doesn't protect green land in the way he would like you to think it does, says Tom Harwood - GB News - July 31st, 2022
- Analysis: From Trump to Putin: Why are people attracted to tyrants? - Brighter World - July 31st, 2022
- The 'paradox' of reconciliation- POLITICO - POLITICO - July 31st, 2022
- Opinion | Why Andrew Yangs New Third Party Is Bound to Fail - The New York Times - July 31st, 2022
- 4 reasons to vote in Arizona's Aug. 2 primary election - The Arizona Republic - July 31st, 2022
- Borders, exclusion, and the populist radical right 'meta-us' - London School of Economics - July 25th, 2022
- Political Line | The debates around populism and welfare politics, secularism and religion, Centre and States relations and more - The Hindu - July 25th, 2022
- The Observer view on how Boris Johnsons spectre haunts the Tory leadership race - The Guardian - July 25th, 2022
- The Jan. 6 riot shocked Americans. Maybe it shouldn't have. - America Magazine - July 25th, 2022
- With Trump, Johnson and Morrison, right-wing populism isn't going away - Crikey - July 14th, 2022
- The history of far-right populism, from the John Birch Society to Trumpism - WBUR News - July 14th, 2022
- 'We're living in a populist era, not a populist moment': Political analyst Henry Olsen on populism, Reagan, and whether or not Trump's star has faded... - July 14th, 2022
- The rampant populism of the Tory leadership contest shows how dangerous this moment is - iNews - July 14th, 2022
- Mick Clifford: Rushing through complex legislation is a cynical move used by populist governments - Irish Examiner - July 14th, 2022
- Why the race to replace Boris Johnson is raising alarm bells about 'irresponsible' populism - The Scotsman - July 14th, 2022
- Sinn Fin shows its populist colours over Ukrainian refugees - The Irish Times - July 14th, 2022
- The head boy from hell - Spiked - July 14th, 2022
- Liberalism is better with a dose of populist wisdom - Sydney Morning Herald - July 4th, 2022
- 20 yrs of privatised Delhi discoms: Leap in tech but feet tied in populism - Business Standard - July 4th, 2022
- Erosion of democracy - The News International - July 4th, 2022
- Meghan McCain Mulling Run for Office'This Fever of MAGA Has to Break' - Newsweek - July 4th, 2022
- Rethinking the Global Order by Turki bin Faisal al-Saud - Project Syndicate - July 4th, 2022
- COSMOGONIC MADE ITS WORLD PREMIERE IN PARIS, FRANCE, AT THE 5TH NEWIMAGES FESTIVAL - PR Newswire - July 4th, 2022
- The good sense of King George | Laudable Practice - The Critic - July 4th, 2022
- Young people should stand up against populism, nationalism and extremism that risk silencing their voices, says Secretary General - Council of Europe - June 30th, 2022
- Michael McDowell: The fruits of populism are ripening, falling and rotting - The Irish Times - June 30th, 2022
- Marcos bids to be man of the Filipino farmer - Asia Times - June 30th, 2022
- Defending Liberalism From the Right and Left - Lawfare - June 30th, 2022
- Understanding right-wing populism and what to do about it - London School of Economics - June 3rd, 2022
- Center-left government takes over from populists in Slovenia - ABC News - June 3rd, 2022
- Don't let the cost-of-living crisis feed far-right populism - The Irish Times - June 3rd, 2022
- Why Homelander from The Boys is the perfect parody of Trumpian populism - indy100 - June 3rd, 2022
- Donner Prize finalists on the rise of populism, mistrust in institutions - The Globe and Mail - June 3rd, 2022
- Boris Johnson is opening the door to a populist insurgency - UnHerd - June 3rd, 2022
- Scotland should remember the words of Adam Smith and beware the dead hand of economic populism Dr Alison Smith - The Scotsman - May 17th, 2022
- Fake Populism vs. Real Populism - The American Prospect - May 17th, 2022
- ArtSci Roundup: MFA Dance Concert, Passage, and More - University of Washington - May 17th, 2022
- Congress Picks Populism Over Increased Supply With Price Gouging Legislation - Forbes - May 15th, 2022
- Opinion | What J.D. Vances Primary Win Says About Populism and Resentment in the G.O.P. - The New York Times - May 15th, 2022
- What Doug Ford's shift to the centre says about the longevity of populism - The Conversation - May 15th, 2022
- Opinion | Why Ron DeSantis Is the New Republican Party - The New York Times - May 15th, 2022
- Republicans learned some of their political tactics from watching Democrats - Washington Examiner - May 15th, 2022
- The rise and fall of a political dynasty that brought Sri Lanka to its knees - FRANCE 24 English - May 15th, 2022
- How Iran's interpretation of the world order affects its foreign policy - Atlantic Council - May 15th, 2022
- The EU is to blame for the rise of the far right in Europe - Al Jazeera English - May 3rd, 2022
- How the right wing makes prejudice mainstream in the West - Gulf News - May 3rd, 2022
- Trumps bid to shape GOP faces test with voters in May races - Oakland Press - May 3rd, 2022
- Don't PanicDemocracy's in Trouble, but It's Not Dying. Author Yascha Mounk on Populism, Diversity, and Hope. - The Daily Beast - April 20th, 2022
- Review of 'The Right: The Hundred Year War for American Conservatism' - City Journal - April 20th, 2022
- Opinion | The G.O.P. Is Still the Party of Plutocrats - The New York Times - April 20th, 2022
- Marine Le Pen's Populist Image Is an Iron Fist in a Velvet Glove - Jacobin magazine - April 11th, 2022
- Republicans Just Proved 'Right Wing Populism' Is a Con Job - The Daily Beast - April 11th, 2022
- Terms of Trade | What drives competitive populism in India? - Hindustan Times - April 11th, 2022
- Indians bored with politics of ideology. Populism speaksfrom Modi to Kejriwal - ThePrint - March 31st, 2022
- WorldCanvass - Corruption, Populism, and Democracy | Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion | The University of Iowa - Diversity, Equity and Inclusion - March 31st, 2022
- Anti-Western Populism By The Prime Minister Is Not Compatible With The National Security Policy Document - The Friday Times - March 31st, 2022
- Opinion: Corruption eats away at democratic institutions around the world Corruption, Populism, and the Future of Democracy - Iowa City Press-Citizen - March 31st, 2022
- Can a party grow nationally on a populist plank? - The Hindu - March 31st, 2022
- Opinion | Yes, There Is a Clash of Civilizations - The New York Times - March 31st, 2022
- The War Nerd - The American Prospect - March 31st, 2022
- Biden and the Billionaire Tax - The American Prospect - March 31st, 2022
- Big Tech, Big Brother - The American Conservative - March 31st, 2022
- Spain's shift to the Right - Open Democracy - March 31st, 2022
- Nationalism and populism in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine - Catholic World Report - March 11th, 2022
- Noise Pollution and Why Populism Failed - The American Conservative - March 11th, 2022