Annika Norlin has written about Neo-Nazis before: “Overall” from 2008’s More Modern Short Stories from Hello Saferide pictured a couple trying to persuade themselves that their child’s activities weren’t anything to do with a sick day coinciding with World War II history at school, violent video games, language used around the house or breastfeeding.
It was dark but funny with a bittersweet ending that made you think they were either over-reacting or had nothing to do with it. It was a fun one act play dancing around a controversial issue. Last Night Bus, from this year’s The Fox, The Hunter and Hello Saferide, takes the same concept head-on, darkens, or strikes out completely, the humour and brings it all much closer to home.
“I was 15, had the shape of a capital L. I still read books about ponies” it begins, describing an invite to the unimaginable, a party “where boys would occur”. Those boys turn out to be nice, ordinary, and fans of Neo-Nazi music.
She hums along, enjoys it, and through the fortune of having to catch a bus feels she misses out on attending demonstrations and “playing bass guitar in a Neo-Nazi band”.
“It’s my scariest sliding doors memory. I want it sliced in a shredder. Thrown out of me” she pleads. But it’s still there, the idea that little circumstances of hanging around people and places can change our opinions and the way we act and that those opinions are only a fragment of the rest of us, though they may smother that rest below the surface. Try as we want to be independent, in the world of the song we’re constantly influenced by everything around us.
She describes a 30, then 50-year-old and treats them the same as the “piece of clay…moulded by anyone” she was when she was 15. It’s all about chance and beautifully, in this song it can change.
“I’m not gonna hate at you because you hate women, I’m not gonna hate at you because you hate colour. I’m gonna wish so hard for someone to give you the right attention, the right love to turn this around.” she says to a backing beat that, though musically reminiscent of LCD Soundsystem, is just there to keep us listening, tuned in to what is clearly a song to make a point.
And it’s a beautiful statement on the importance of open mindedness that functions just as well outside of responses to sexism and racism. Though it preaches forgiveness it seems even keener to point out our ability to inspire people to change their minds or ourselves realise we were wrong about something.
It’s not so much a protest song as a stealthy blast of hope from the inside.