I really needed this album, way more than I thought I would. When I heard Briggs and Trials were putting together a duo and an album to be released I remember thinking “cool, that’ll be worth a look”. But by the middle of 2016 I was starting to feel more and more disillusioned with the year’s oz hip-hop contributions, and although I was enjoying some downtime from Australia releases, the public discourse was invading my head space. So welcome was the record that I instantly dropped everything to listen to it on repeat which I rarely do these days for fear of over saturation. Something kept dragging me back, time and time again.
Anybody who has been following the wider Briggs saga over the past couple of years will know the man doesn’t shy away from controversy and having his voice heard in the media both mainstream and social. ‘And why the fuck not?’ I can hear his voice say in my head, the answer clear; for his unshaken and passionate fight for his country, his land and his people’s right to recognition are nothing short of legendary. He’d probably hate me for comparing him but he reminds me so much of another strong Indigenous man from back in the day, the always amazing Uncle Gary Foley. More importantly than the behind the scenes war of words being conducted, his walk through this album with long-time friend and collaborator Trials (Funkoars) is often a whirlwind of anger and pain coupled with an overpowering sense of ‘we don’t need you’ which is precisely why you need this album in your life.
I’d be remiss for not mentioning the incredible harsh picture this album paints from start to finish. Not just about the ongoing and historical treatment of Indigenous people in Australia’s history but also of the overwhelming sense of loss and pain it accompanies and the steeled determination all involved show with regard to any sort of pathological Caucasian sympathy listeners may try to show. It is more than that, but routinely challenges your thoughts on how you might fit into the wider picture whether you think you stand for, against or outside the bitter frothing argument of Australia’s dispossessors and dispossessed. Tracks like ‘ICU’ and ‘Sorry’ really smash home the feelings young Indigenous people have always being treated one way or another regardless of their intentions, actions or feelings to the contrary. Having two of the loveliest and strongest women in the Australia music industry, Thelma Plum and Caiti Baker, along for the ride is a testament to the feeling of power Briggs and Trials have when they talk openly about experience and the country’s inherent modern and historical racism.
Similarly the lead track of the record, ‘January 26’ feat Dan Sultan, rams home the idea behind the whole album: Australia, we are sick of talking. Its action time. And fair fucking enough. I’m writing this review thinking about #changethedate, #alwayswillbe and #reclaimAustralia while I silently count-down to my most hated day of the year. I’ve heard enough and every year I hide out in the hope it all goes away at some point, but the first time in years I can feel a ground swell. This album has a lot of credit due where this political discourse goes.
Its not surprising I’m marking this highly and I have no problems doing so. Its short which I usually hate, but its altogether one of the most coherent and powerful albums I’ve had the pleasure to listen to and it still challenge me every day to rethink what I say and do with regard to Indigenous people in this country and for that I am extremely thankful.
9 out of 10 Fists in the Air