“Rise Up With Fists!!!” finds me one June afternoon, on a train from Heathrow airport back to Hammersmith at the end of a work trip to mainland Europe. It finds me because I’m playing Rabbit Fur Coaton my Spotify app, stuck on shuffle mode, all my skips used up too fast too soon. What took you so long, it seems to say, half glad and half reproachful. Where have you been all these years?
I’ve been gazing out of bedroom windows and cars and buses under the spell of “Melt Your Heart”. I’ve been going through phases of playing “You Are What You Love” on repeat, one relationship failed before its start after another, none really worth a good song. I’ve been waking up with “Happy” stuck in my head at times when I was everything but. That’s where I’ve been since my first encounter with Rabbit Fur Coat, around 2006. And now, “Rise Up With Fists!!!” finds me like a five-pound note fished out of an old coat pocket by pure chance. Well, actually, make it ten. Because that June afternoon happens to be in 2016, not even two weeks after the Brexit vote, and I’ve never been this fucking furious.
Jenny Lewis has a power that I — a woman who can’t sound so much as mildly annoyed without being called shrill — can only dream of: she can tell you the most damning things with the calmest, softest voice, without making them sound any less true. Even her angriest words never descend into the sort of blind rage the year of our Lord 2016 has brought me to the brink of. With “Rise Up With Fists!!!” I feel the punches to the gut a moment too late to steel myself for the ache, and There but for the grace of God go Iis the kind of perfect, neat, encapsulating sentence I could tattoo around my wrist (if I hadn’t heard wrist tattoos hurt like hell, and hadn’t long given up finding a god I believe in to the point of etching its name on my skin).
Don’t let the caustic tone fool you, though: this song has a big heart. It tears down false idols, it exposes the lies we tell ourselves to avoid looking into the future and seeing the abyss gaze back — and, all the while, it reminds us that not all hope is lost. It’s just not in our line of sight half the time we think we’ve got it; just not as big and bright as we expect it, and not where everyone says it’s easy to find.
(Song recommendation by Federica S.)