To say that Britain has gone through a tumultuous time since Kate Tempest released her debut album ‘Everybody Down’ in 2014 is an understatement. In the wake of the Brexit vote in particular, the country seems more divided and in a state of unnerving flux. Never one to back away from difficult subject matter, the poet, rapper and author seems like the perfect candidate to analyse the UK in 2016. In the process, she’s also given a new meaning to the phrase “difficult second album.”
Like ‘Everybody Down,’ ‘Let Them Eat Chaos’ presents an extended, narrative-driven polemic on modern Britain. This time, though, Tempest sounds even angrier and more confrontational, injecting the delivery of her words with a particularly poisonous venom. Producer Dan Carey also helps to create a haunting, downbeat trip-hop inspired landscape. For instance: The chiming bells on opener ‘Picture A Vacuum’ warp into unrecognisable, pulsating drones, letting you know there’s little joy to be found beyond.
There is, however, immense enjoyment to be had in listening to Tempest’s lyrics. She’s perfected the art of setting the scene, mentioning little details like the “black gatepost with the concrete frog” in ‘Ketamine For Breakfast,’ or the “boarded up independent record store” in ‘Pictures On A Screen’ that bring her visions to life. Alongside this minutiae, she deftly eviscerates everything that’s bringing the country down. Whether it’s the gradual gentrification of London on ‘Perfect Coffee’ (“since when was this a winery? / It used to be a bingo”) or the apathy of the general public on ‘Don’t Fall In’ (“all the half-hearted, half-formed, fast-walking half-fury”), nothing is safe from her crosshairs. On the incendiary ‘Europe Is Lost’ there’s even a reference to #piggate, pointing out the hypocrisy that “they fuck the heads of dead pigs/ But the hoodie with the spliff/ Jail him he’s the criminal.”
‘Let Them Eat Chaos’ isn’t always an easy listen. It’s not meant to be. But the blunt, often bleak social commentary is tempered by a final hopeful plea: “wake up and love more.” Only time will tell if the nation can do that. In the meantime, Tempest has delivered a compelling, thought-provoking insight into our troubled times.
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