Sometime in the late fall of 2008, Kermit The Frog took the internet and the music industry by storm. In a video that quickly went viral and that’s since received almost 4.5-million views on YouTube, the pleasant and well-meaning star of The Muppet Show is seen alone and sitting on some rocks at sunset along the East River, with the Williamsburg Bridge and parts of the Manhattan skyline featuring prominently in the background.
In a noticeable departure from his usually optimistic and upbeat demeanor, Kermit appears downcast as he ruefully airs his grievances in song against the city he had so happily and readily adopted as his own in the 1984 Frank Oz- directed comedy The Muppets Take Manhattan.
The brainchild of British director Simon Owens, the video was made in collaboration with LCD Sound System’s James Murphy and consequently released as the unofficial video for the band’s Sound of Silver closer “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down.” In it, Kermit fills in Murphy’s role as bona fide hipster raconteur, as he proceeds to indict a post-Giuliani Big Apple with the crime of losing its charm and character as it falls victim to the radical changes brought on by gentrification.
Raising a red flag about longtime residents being pushed out of their neighborhoods by wealthier newcomers lured in by a glossy and sterile ersatz version of the city, Kermit exhorts his adopted home to retain some semblance of its former self since, ultimately, this is where he has staked a long term claim. At one point midway through the song, Murphy-via-Kermit confesses: “but you’re still the pool where I’d happily drown.”
Fast-forward to twelve years, two major global recessions, and three presidents later, and the growing trend of financial inequality at the heart of Murphy’s and Kermit’s imputations still looms large and visible. Worse, not only has the disparity between the haves and the have-not’s become more pronounced, but it’s also been exported and replicated abroad. It is in this bleak social context that London-based quartet Malady makes their debut on the scene.
Made up of Percy Cobbinah (vocals, guitars), Charlie Clark (guitars, synths), Khaleem Mitchell-Patterson (bass), and Ertan Cimen (drums), this up-and-coming four-piece capably blends elements from dub, IDM, dubstep, indie-rock, and post-rave into a distinctively English sound. Their debut single, “London, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down,” has just been released as part of the monthly “Nice Swan Introduces…” series.
Upbeat, fast-tempo, and featuring a guitar-laced and synth-heavy approach, the number owes not only its title to the cultish Sound of Silver book-end, but its hook and melody also. In a notable example of what Stereogum’s Chris Deville once dubbed “the monogenre” in action, the song is an entirely organic snafu that combines the angst and aggressive nature of indie-rock, with the ethereal melodic stylings of post-punk revival, and the mesmeric rhythmic effects of IDM. And much like the musical elements of the song deal with the recycling and synthesizing of numerous aesthetic currents, so too, do the lyrics echo the same feeling of discontent with the seemingly omnipotent market forces nefariously at work that Murphy and Kermit bemoaned more than a decade earlier.
“Another high-rise built from grade
Another coffee shop no one needs”
Cobbinah laments, before asking with sincere and genuine zoomer apprehension:
“Is it too late to turn this around?”
Ultimately, as was the case with the Kermit-Murphy duo, Cobbinah can’t see an exact way out of the codependent and toxic relationship he’s built with his environment. No matter how drastic the changes that lay ahead, or how much greater the number of people that get left behind by the impersonal and haphazard forces of neoliberalism, there remains a deep-seated and undying love and fidelity on the part of the speaker towards his hometown.
The kind of fanatic devotion that fosters the peculiarly stoic sense of trust and camaraderie that makes confronting these unpleasant realities equally necessary and valuable.