"If God and the government ignore us, things start to unwind" go the lines on a track from the still impressive 1986 debut 'Rave On Andy White'. As proof of this album's longevity, it has been reissued on limited edition vinyl as a compliment to this latest release to coincide with a Winter UK/Irish tour.
Over three decades on, things have definitely unwound so the Northern Irish singer-songwriter's passion and political commitment is needed more than ever. We certainly can't depend on God or the government to bail us out.
The blind still lead the bland and we have a new batch of heroes and villains pursuing the same short-sighted, money-driven agenda. The mainly short, punchy songs on 'The Guilty And The Innocent' were conceived as a traditional 2-sided vinyl LP with 20 minutes per side; the Guilty are on one side, the Innocent are on the other.
White makes no apologies for the overtly politicized content. He begins by stressing the importance of separating reality from delusion (This is not a Television Show) and, in Age-old Story, catalogues the daily evidence how, and by how much, the system has been broken. In these, and throughout, the emphasis is on the necessity for action and protest as well as sympathy and empathy.
Very Fine People takes its title from Trump's much reported speech after the right-wing rally in Charlottesville, Virginia promoting the fake news that there were "very fine people on both sides”.
Mean Mofo also sets its sights squarely on the despicable POTUS with his “male Russian bride” and is built around the refrain: “All you blame on someone else, Why can’t you accept yourself”. The anger is unmistakable despite the lyrical and melodic qualities of both these songs.
In similar campaigning vein, Promises Broken is about the lies and betrayals of all political leaders which was, says White, "written about one Australian Prime Minister, but could equally apply to the one who replaced him. Or the present UK one".
In turning to the Innocent side, White highlights the plight of refugees (Dignity), the attributes of Jeremy Corbyn (Jeremy), the victims of the suicide bomber in Manchester Arena (The Peace They Need) and those countless individuals battling ignorance and injustice to find a voice (Unheard). The last of these draws examples from his birthplace in Belfast and shows that, though he now lives in Melbourne, his homeland remains close to his heart.
White is at his best when he keeps things simple and acoustic as when he sings of "misplaced faith, home-made bombs and foreign goals" in the song about the terrorist outrage in Manchester.
The album closes on a real high. The title track is the longest and best thing here. The Guilty and the Innocent is a moving Dylanesque hymn to truth and a fragile world. Like Desolation Row, it features a cast list of real and fictitious characters including Frankenstein's bride, Michelangelo, Marilyn Monroe and Jesus. Lyrically, there are juxtapositions worthy of His Bobness such as "the undertaker's laughing, he's got a message on his phone". And far from there being no direction home, White is at pains to remind listeners that home is where the hurt can mend.
If you find yourself at odds with White's outspoken views, you'll just have to live with the guilt while we innocents savour the fervent pleas for truth and justice.
Andy White's website