Commerce dressed up as rebellion.
It is difficult now to remember just how powerful and acceptable racism was in 70s Britain, when the National Front was a threatening presence and Margaret Thatcher could come to power complaining about the country being "swamped" by immigrants.
Yep, things really have changed.
Far more interesting is just how timid the majority of new bands are on the issues which once did fire such passions back in the 70s. Partly this is because of the corporate monopoly which the music industry has become, with just four major companies now controlling the vast majority of record labels. This allows for some intransigence on the level of Green Day writing such vapid but mainstream protest as American Idiot, but certainly not on the level that it once might have been. It's a sign of just how comfortable and conservative most have become when the biggest social protesters are such rich cretins as Bob Geldof and Bono, urging everyone other than themselves to dip into their pockets, while in the latter's case they avoid paying tax and sue someone to retrieve a pay of trousers.
You could also point towards how "indie rock" especially has become the middle classes' opiate of choice, about as challenging as Soma itself. When the NME last year launched its Love Music Hate Racism campaign with a free CD, about the only people who contributed towards it who might have actually encountered racism were the execrable Lethal Bizzle, Roll Deep, MIA, and Bloc Party's Kele Okereke and Matt Tong, the rest of the line up made up of the working class but abysmal Enemy, with the rest being British "indie's" current wave of middle class mediocrity. The opposing view is that the Clash, one of the bands that were instrumental in the setting up of Rock Against Racism and in the fight against the NF etc in the 70s, were also all middle class kids, unlike the working class but manufactured Sex Pistols.
Perhaps the real reason though is that the bands themselves are actually just reflecting their own peer groups - those who might buy a "Make Poverty History" wristband, in the most overrated, pointless and hopeless corporate campaign ever, and who care vaguely about climate change, hence the ludicrous Live Earth concerts of last year, epitomised by Joss Stone who told the audience to change their light bulb to a low energy one and to plant a tree and that everything would then be fine - but who are actually the most apathetic and apolitical generation that we've known. Bloc Party's Uniform sums it up, as perhaps Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit previously did a decade before:
There was a sense of disappointment as we left the mall
All the young people looked the same
Wearing their masks of cool and disinterest
Commerce dressed up as rebellion
The crowds will turn out tomorrow at Victoria Park, they'll be some tedious old-hat sloganising, riffs will be played, those so inclined will spend the night in beds other than their own, and just as before, nothing whatsoever will change.