The new EP by Han Gan, called The Time Past, is short but holds enough post-hardcore infused scholarly content for a semester in economics and policy. It shares a sound with minimalist rockers, Shellac, including the taut vocals of J. Brian Nicewander. And the importance of the lyrics is matched perfectly by the urgency of the music.
The first song is about the dangers of how modern technology under the current system commodifies even our identities. “Identity is commerce / a spiraling media-verse / calamitous as it fails / savage in the details.” The chorus, “Let the bells ring / Tintinnabulation” is like a reverse call of the Liberty Bell. It probably reflects more John Donne’s line, “Don’t ask for whom the bell tolls / it tolls for thee.” We are all caught up in the web (pun intended) of Capitalism’s sway over our lives in every area we could think possible. Money talks, and here the bullshit doesn’t walk but maintains control of what we wear, how we speak, what we post online, or see represented on the television. “Cyber writes elegies / users’ emnity.” What should be to our advantage is to our detriment, in a society run by corporations and an oligarchical government.
The second song, “Freed Market,” is full of economic terminology. “Expenditures,” “wages,” “coefficients,” “trends.” I had to look up what a “Laffer curve” was, and apparently it’s the idea that it doesn’t benefit the government to increase taxes in order to increase the tax revenue. “Supply-side” economics is the idea that rose among Republican Party politicians from 1977 onwards, that says it’s not to the economy’s advantage to put barriers in the way of the suppliers of products. And the result, according to Han Gan, is “Laffer curves eternally / Supply-side hierarchy (bourgeoise, oligarchy, [and] patriarchy).” The ones who control the money control the society, and it’s overwhelmingly old, white patriarchs interested in furthering their own interests. “A coterie paints the targets / All authority in a freed market.” It is a set up, for those in power to maintain power, to not get taxed, to control what and how we consume, and freed market becomes a contradiction in terms.
After the instrumental, “24 Hour Feedback,” (which might have to do with how everything–news, media, commerce–is now broadcast to us on the hour by the hour,) the last song sets its sights on the unwillingness of the powers that be to deal with the threat of climate change. “Ice melt / desert expanse / Generations’ view askance / The solution unfinanced / Generations’ view askance.” The result of a lack of policy surrounding our global crisis, according to Han Gan, is that “the time has passed.” Time Past, therefore, takes on two meanings. First, the way time past has held an almost impenetrable hold on modern economics and policy. And second, that maybe the greed that held the power in their sway have caused it to be too late for any solution to the apocalyptic problems at hand.
This is all my take, as a layman who has never studied economics or policy. An attempt to get into the heart of a band that, through their art, means to educate and confront what they deem as a dangerous system at play. It’s a short album, at only four songs, with one as an instrumental, that clocks in at a mere 8 minutes. But like I said, it is jam packed with things to think about, perhaps lines to put on protest signs, and something that could be studied in college courses someday. DC, I’m finding, has a wealth of intelligent artists who are marrying their education with their art. Who aren’t afraid to speak up when it comes to the important and often complicated problems that we’re now facing as an American society. This was a rich, informative listen.