The song “Next Generation” first appeared on the 1998 self-titled self-released Pilfers album, listed simply as “Generation.” The chorus is a call to action: “Time to awake, get up and fight, fight for mankind, life for the cause.” The first verse recounts humanity’s attacks on itself. Verse two reminds us of our rights and responsibilities while holding us accountable for that which happens around us:
But if you turn a blind eye, You’re just as guilty as the culprits.
The innocent are sure to die, so rise up against injustice.
17 years later, the band produces a music video for the song. The video juxtaposes footage of America during segregation with footage from recent Black Lives Matter protests; it contains footage of the 1991 beating of Rodney King as well as the 2014 murder of Eric Garner. It’s both powerful and heartbreaking. This was the first time I’d really paid attention to the lyrics of the song, guilty as usual of blindly singing along with the chorus until now.
In the wake of rallies and protests both locally and across the country, I was happy to hear an artist speak out against racism and police brutality in the wake of no indictment grand jury decisions in the Brown and Garner murders. The ska scene has always preached unity (from Desmond Dekker to Operation Ivy) and gave birth to the Ska Against Racism tour, an attempt in the 90s to return to the political roots of the two-tone era. Where are the voices now? I was grateful and inspired to see local punk/ska band Stray Bullets post an article on their Facebook page decrying police brutality and they continue to defend their position as commenters argued with them. Boston punk band Trophy Lungs both spoke out and organized a compilation to benefit Black Lives Matter. When Pilfers posted this video, I was once again moved.
I reached out to Pilfers vocalist Coolie Ranx to ask him what prompted the video. He said he was so moved by what he was seeing on TV, “The massive movement of all Color shades of America coming together to protest.” It occurred to him that this was reflected in one of his songs.