By Martin Smith | 27 January 2015
Tucked away at the north end of the Victoria Line is Walthamstow, it is regarded by some as a bit of a sleepy place – home to a huge street market, a closed down dog track and we mustn’t forget the band E17.
But there is another side to Walthamstow, a radical side, it is a multicultural borough with a long tradition of opposing racism and fascism, it has a strong trade union history and it is of course the home to the beautiful William Morris Gallery.
This is the Walthamstow that Steve White and the Protest Family captures perfectly on their album This Band is Sick.
It is a protest album, a fusion of punk and folk – think Attila the Stockbroker meets the Pogues meets The Men they Couldn’t Hang. This band knows what side they are on. They are torchbearers for a tradition of musicians that use their art to support working people and the oppressed.
And they certainly know who the enemy is, Boris Johnson, fascists and the bosses are all dealt a number of sharp and witty blows, none better than on the track Bad Day for Bojo. This is agitprop, good agitprop.
But the album does have its tender moments like the melancholic and touching Ecstasy Death Girl.
The band is led by Steve White, whose unplugged sessions have become something of a feature of the Tolpuddle Festival in recent years. The band features Funky Lol Ross on mandolin and electric guitar and veteran of the East London music scene, Doug E Harper on bass. Meanwhile banjo duties fall to award-winning player and co-ordinator of the renowned Walthamstow Folk Club, Russ Chandler.
I want to end at the beginning, with the opening four lines of the opening song No Pasaran in E17:
It’s no pasaran in E17
The EDL came but they wished they never been
Cos we took Bell Corner and they didn’t pass
You can stick your racist hatred up your arse
You have to love an album that celebrates the victory against the racist English Defence League in Walthamstow in 2012. And if you were there that day you will love it even more.
PS. Don’t miss the hidden track at the end of the album – a joyous song dedicated to Leyton Orient FC, the second best club in London, the best can be found in E13.
This Band Is Sick is only available directly from the band via their Bandcamp site (stevewhiteandtheprotestfamily.bandcamp.com), from Four Dogs Music, Bookmarks The Socialist Bookshop, the Tolpuddle Martyrs Museum Shop or Leyton Orient Supporters Club.