It’s still there, as prevalent as ever, underwriting our society whether we are aware of it (or care about) or not; that rural-urban divide and northern-southern antagonism. It may be more subtle, but it still bubbles below the surface in various forms. Life happens, people move for work, for relationships for any number of reasons, and in the UK more-so than many countries, there is one place that is focus of so much attention, artificially created or not. It’s where highest volume of jobs is, the centre of media focus (the centre of the media itself), the centre of our modern industry, the industry of mediation and middle men; London.
At times it seems inescapable. The media may make token efforts but increasingly the smaller ‘provincial’ cities (which are inevitably northern as London becomes a black hole of urbanism in the centre of the south) feel marginalised, or ignored, despite the efforts of places such as Manchester to create a northern rival. In the aftermath of the fall of manufacturing all our cities built as ports, shipyards, centres of the industrial revolution are all subordinate to the “City” – the handling of money, transferring of equity, service industries, advertisers, and middle men working only in the value of ideas and the monetary value of paper pushing, understanding the system (the construct), having the contacts and little else. It may be felt in London more than anywhere, but it could be any city where there is that feeling of inevitable pull, you will end up there no matter what and adapt to its rhythms, regardless the of the undeniable positives and clear negatives, so why resist? Why choose marginalisation when you can get to the centre of it, enjoy a piece of it and embrace the commodification of society? Why would you ostracise yourself?
The benefits of the mass urban centre are well known, not least culturally, and of course the access to essentially everything that could be at your disposal, but when in danger of losing our regional characters, of looking down on those who choose to embrace the smaller town, or a rural existence, and condescending to them as unwilling to risk wider experience, it is worth asking what the appeal of this way of life might be. What are we losing?
James Yorkston’s Woozy with Cider comes closer than any song in the past 10 years to encapsulating this feeling, in beautifully articulating the sense of loss and of gain through shunning the ‘centre of everything’ for your own pace of life and embracing the values of your regional character, of connection. It’s success comes from its presentation; an internal monologue of an intimate moment, one of those insightful moments brought on by alcohol, in which you (the listener) are the voyeur.
Over a sparse repetitive melodic line, with depth and warmth added by the woodwind arrangements (written by Reporter) James Yorkston intones in his gentle Fife timbre a fully realised stream of thought, delivering musings on the world, offering candid self awareness, hinting at the depth of his relationship, not afraid to wander, drifting memories and perfectly pitching this rejection of following the herd; a refusal to embrace the new order where the City rules.