Dylan Rippon: Rocks And Sands

HRWZ017 Rocks And Sands

In early 2003 Northern Sky Records released ‘Rocks And Sands’ as a limited edition 7″. There was an exclusive gig at the launch of the Carbon Music store in Soho with DJ sets from Sasha and Simian. The song was described as being “like the Beta Band at their best, but with an added intensity and classic rock foundations” (Indielondon). It entered Rough Trade’s list of “the top ten platters that matter” finally reaching no. 7 in the store’s single’s chart. The BBC went on to comment that the song was ‘upbeat and catchy in the Ed Harcourt frame of mind”, while The Guardian stated that Rippon is “a songwriter who is advertising nothing more than his own enthusiasm for peace in a world which appears to have gone entirely insane”. Some were quick to view the song as a knee-jerk protest against the Iraq invasion. There was a desire to define the song as ‘political’ with Rippon responding, ‘like most young people, I don’t care about politics – Rocks And Sands is anti-politics”. It was difficult explaining that the song had been written before the events of 9/11, inspired by a ‘smaller’ atrocity and that Rippon’s previous band Grand Union had already recorded the song in 2001 only to have the Twin Towers make its release impossible. We regard ‘Rocks And Sands’ with its unflinching gaze, visceral reality and visions of Baudrillard and McLuhan to be a very fine piece of pop music indeed. And it rocks! Suicide bombers, occupations, voyeurism, tourism, the medium is the message and withering criticism of the mainstream media (“and you’re just checking out the scenery”) was always going to be a tough sell to the mainstream media. As the Guardian signed off in its review the release of the single at the moment the Allied forces invaded Iraq was “like trying to flog scuba equipment in Chad, but it would be churlish not to wish him well”. Ten years after the initial release the sense that ‘Rocks And Sands’ captures the hypocrisy and distractions of our times has increased. The song’s relevance and stature continues to grow in a world of drones, censorship and mass surveillance, where the ‘War on Terror’ has achieved totality, we sit at home watching it all on ‘The News’, “and the jeeps roll on and on and on”.