D:Ream on being booked for Glastonbury and the return of ‘Things Can Only Get Better’

Rock

D:Ream have spoken to NME about their shocked reaction to their 1993 hit ‘Things Can Only Get Better’ returning to the charts after being played over Rishi Sunak announcing a general election in a downpour – and how it has led to them being asked to play Glastonbury 2024.

Last Wednesday (May 22), as a drenched Sunak took to a podium outside 10 Downing Street to reveal the snap July 4 election date, in the background protester Steve Bray played the Northern Irish band’s Number One song which had long been associated with Tony Blair’s landslide victory in 1997.

The clip has since gone viral on social media platforms and entered the iTunes chart Top 10 within 24 hours.

According to D:Ream singer Peter Cunnah, though, the political connotations of the song had become an albatross for the band over the New Labour years and beyond.

“My first reaction was ‘not again, please let me move on’,” he told NME. “We all wanted that change in ’97, that sense of positivity. After doing the Good Friday Agreement, [Blair] looked like he was the great, great saviour. And then he sexed up the document and went to war in Iraq, and we were standing going ‘not in our name’. Then you get accused of having blood on your hands.”

However, Cunnah did see the humour in the moment. “Obviously, it’s very funny that Steve Bray took the initiative but who the hell advised Sunak to stand in the rain?” he said. “What else could you play that wouldn’t be perfect? It was the entrance music for Blair and now it’s the exit music for Rishi. [But] he’s so loaded he’s just gonna walk into a big fat paying job, probably a knighthood.”

Since 1997, the song has since been used as a more general anthem of positivity, such as when it was played across Nottingham every Thursday during the Clap For Carers pandemic campaign. Bandmate Al Mackenzie said he recognises the song’s fresh potential as a protest anthem and message of hope, a cross between The White Stripes‘ ‘Seven Nation Army’ and The Lightning Seeds‘ ‘Three Lions’ for election cycles.

“We’re in a similar sort of period of time as when Labour got in last time,” he said. “Everyone wants rid of the Tories. I think that’s quite a national thing. It’s not really about Labour, Liberal, whatever, it’s just about getting the Tories out. It shouldn’t be seen as a Labour song. Using it as a protest song is cool, but it’s not hanging its hat on one or the other. We all know, it’s always going to be associated with [New Labour], that’s just how it is, but I like that feeling of it being a protest.”

“Anti-establishment, let’s say,” Cunnah added.

When the story broke, the band – who previously included celebrity physicist, Professor Brian Cox on keyboards – were midway through work on 18 tracks they’ve written for a new album, the follow-up to 2021’s ‘Open Hearts Open Minds’.

The new material, Cunnah said, has a protest leaning too. “We’ve got one called ‘Anthem For Change’, ‘Don’t Let The Bastards Grind You Down’, stuff like that. And then we’ve got ‘The Geek Who Rules The World’ which will hopefully be on an EP soon. Everyone twigs that it’s about Elon Musk by about the third verse.”

Work has paused, however, while the band field offers for shows around the election, including an appearance at Glastonbury and a possible headline show on July 4.

“The phone starts ringing as if you’ve been forgotten men,” Cunnah said, “It’s getting us gigs, and from that point of view it’s a love-hate relationship [with the song]. But when we do perform live, it brings the house down. It’s great to have such a joyful track.”

Peter Cunnah of D: Ream (Photo by Fryderyk Gabowicz/picture alliance via Getty Images)
Peter Cunnah of D: Ream (Photo by Fryderyk Gabowicz/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Mackenzie continued: “We’re not going to do any political things on that night. If we get a gig that night it’ll just be gig. We’re just assuming Labour are going to win this election by the way. Everyone’s just like, ‘Oh, it’s a shoo in’. Politics have a funny way of changing around in just a few hours. If we do an election party for Labour and suddenly the Tories win, we’d look really stupid.”

The band are cautious about revealing whether Cox might rejoin the band for such an event. “He’s very busy,” Makenzie said, tapping his nose. “But he does love us so you never know.”

“We love him,” Cunnah said. “He’s got us playing at his show in London at the Royal Albert Hall at the end of the year, he’s got us on as his closing act.”

Cunnah and Mackenzie have differing opinions on the election itself. “I want the Tories out and the only way that happens is if Labour get in,” Mackenzie said. “I think we’ve had enough for this many years. It’s time for a change of guard and see what happens. They’re going to take over a right shitstorm, whoever gets in. So it’s gonna be difficult.”

“We differ in this,” Cunnah said. “I don’t see any difference between the blue team and the red team. I just think it’s a change of guard and they do various little policy things and tweaks here and there. But it’s just more of the same, really.”

They’re convinced that Kier Starmer won’t use the song during his election campaign – “I don’t see how he could,” Cunnah said, “for him that will have the connotations of New Labour so that wouldn’t give him clear ground” – but are aware of the opportunities presented by the song’s newsworthy resurgence.

“As a friend was reminding us, about a third of the electorate know nothing about the war in Iraq, they’re just voting for the first time now and they’re just hearing your song for the first time,” Cunnah said.

“It might lead us to a whole new audience of young people,” Mackenzie agreed. “We’re not going to be able to get away from it at Glastonbury because we’re on four or five days before election day. We’ve just got to do our thing, try and do a good show and people might see it on TV and think ‘oh actually they’re quite good’.”

Shortly after footage ‘Things Can Only Get Better’ backing Sunak’s announcement went viral, Cox responded to share an alternative with what he thought was more fitting music.

Since the election announcement, Sunak has divided voters by announcing controversial plans to bring back national service.



Originally Posted Here

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