There is a movement among alternative bands in the UK – a small handful and special few – to look outside the lens of their personal lives and turn their attention to the world around them. In this crop we’ve seen bands like Architects and Enter Shikari speak on subjects from class to capitalism to climate change, investing research into building an intelligent response to global issues. Boston Manor’s recent album Glue brings the Blackpool outfit into the fold, trumping the age-old concept of just writing thirteen songs about a girl.
“It’s not that I’m necessarily shedding light on issues”, notes frontman Henry Cox in reference to the record. “I just kind of wish people would spend a little bit longer meditating on things and thinking about what they can do and what needs to change – or even just knowing how they feel about things, because people don’t really know how they feel about anything. People are so influenced by what other people will think, comment and how funny they are.”
The issues that Glue touch on range from the state of the world in 2020 to toxic masculinity, drawing in a range of feelings that we can all empathise with in lieu of just focusing on Cox’s life which he describes as really not that interesting. “I keep my finger relatively on the pulse with what’s going on, particularly in the UK”, he comments. “But you know, I like to stay informed because I get to travel all around the world and talk to people about what’s going on in that country. And it’s so interesting how similar it is – from the United States to Australia and Europe, we’re facing exactly the same problems. And I don’t think this is a national thing anymore, I think that is a worldwide thing, much more on the global stage.”
Cox likens our global situation to “like theatre”, with “insane big” political characters like Boris Johnson and Donald Trump putting on quite the live show for us as if it’s all a bizarre reality TV show. There are two camps on everything – it’s all black and white, anti or pro – and with the internet at our fingertips, it’s easier than ever before to find likeminded people to support your opinion, even if it isn’t oriented on the facts.
“I was talking about this with a friend actually”, Cox recalls, comparing the ignorant nature of opinion on politics to being the “alternative kid” at school. “I shut myself out to this world of incredible music”, he describes, from wanting to define himself exclusively as the living embodiment of 80’s and early 90’s punk. “At the time, you just want to belong to something. You want to put your mark on the world and say who you are and you want to belong to the community of people, for whatever it is that you’re into. I think that’s what we’re talking about, at a bigger scale.”
“People are so influenced by what other people will think, comment and how funny they are.”
Cox acknowledges that it’s easy to discuss it on from the inside out, but when you’re having a direct conversation with someone that disagrees with you, it’s a different story. “I think a big problem is everyone is so angry and reactionary and if you yell at someone, it’s just going to make them yell back.” That’s no longer the approach that Cox will take to an argument hinging on opinion – be it politics or something else entirely – even with those closest to him.
“My parents are smarter than I am”, he admits. “Generally speaking, they’re intelligent people. They taught me a lot about the world, but I have different opinions to them on certain things. And sometimes it can be hard for me to talk to my Mum”. She would always listen to him – Cox notes – but “it’s about better communication” and him listening to other people’s viewpoints too. “I think having more mature discussions on each part, letting people say their opinion and not be shouted down, is how we’re going to get out of this at the moment.”
Jumping from the macrocosm to the microcosm in the same way that Cox relates the situation back to himself, there are other moments on Glue where issues prevalent for all of society, like toxic masculinity, refer back to Cox’s personal experience. ‘On A High Ledge’ touches on the subject of what it means to be a man, where statistics on mental health are continuing to raise red flags on the harmful effects of existing behaviours and expectations.
“I’m not going to say that I was bullied or something like that”, Cox raises. He wasn’t into sports in school, spending more time at drama club, making music or painting. “Most of my best friends were all girls.” Based on that – and of course what’s he’s seen throughout his life – Cox stands strongly for people being who they are. “I hate throwing out something so generic, but it’s so true, you know, how different everybody is”, making the fact that young people have to navigate any other expectations for the way they live their lives completely unnecessary.
Cox is a model of that in his own life, continuing to use intelligence and honesty to fight against the unfortunate components of the world that he was born into. In doing so, Boston Manor have taken on a greater purpose, inspiring others to do the same. Cox thought the band going in this direction was going to “be a little more polarising”, but it’s working out for them so far. “I think by the time the touring comes around”, Cox concludes, “people will really have a real full understanding and appreciation of the album and what went into making those songs.”