There’s an interesting spoken word phenomenon in the UK that many stateside punters may not be aware of; a combination of the classic, stream of consciousness-style poetry and traditional hip hop-style rap that’s been quite popular in Blighty but never had much of a toehold in North America. Aside from the TikTok famous Louis Theroux jape, “My money don’t jiggle; it folds,” there really aren’t too many modern examples of this mashup on either side of the pond, but it was quite popular in the 90s and 00s. For reference, think Nada Surf’s “Popular” or, likely the most famous example, Blur’s “Parklife,” which features actor Phil Daniels on the spoken word lyrics. Very few, however, have turned this form of poetry into a full musical identity. Enter Faron Sage.
Somewhere at the corner of “Park Life” Gorillaz is actually where one can find Faron Sage. Created as an animated character whose cheeky persona mitigates the hard-hitting political lyrics to be found in nearly every track released, the project has gained a loyal following on YouTube, both for its anarchic yet plain-speaking style and its stark visualizers. Starting from, not surprisingly, 2020, the project began releasing jazz fusion-forward tracks with an aggressive spoken word verse over top. The Zappa-esque music works well with the chaotic meter of the lyrics, but intentionally does nothing to smooth them out. This is Speakers’ Corner in digital form: loud, brash and meant to cause a stir.
“No Alternative” is the latest release from Faron Sage and, in typical fashion, it pulls no punches. Lashed to a jazzy bassline with comparatively minimal music, surrounding, the cartoon character is immediately off on a tear as soon as the track starts, discussing all the political ills of the modern world. The “chorus,” as it were, is the conclusion of the first verse that there is “No Alternative” to the current mess the world is in. What’s surprising, however, is the next verse turns it around and offers an alternative. It comes with critical thinking on a massive scale and thus the alternative presents as quite utopian, which is rare in these times, but it’s nice to see Mr. Sage isn’t all doom and gloom. There is an alternative: social evolution, and it is possible.
Final third of “No Alternative” has a musical break of quite cartoonish nature, which not only fuels the call-and-response argument of the track but also works quite well with the animated video. Done in a whimsical, 1960s post modern advert style, the video for “No Alternative” is more narrative and less visualizer compared to other Faron Sage videos like “Status Quo” and “Whole.” It also features more speaking characters than usual, as videos like “Wake Up the World” and “Head or Tail,” which only feature the project’s main character, the also 60s-stylized Faron Sage. As it’s an argument within a song, it make sense to have a narrative rather than a monologue. The animation itself is a big part of Faron Sage and it certainly helps to drive the point of “No Alternative” home.
Fame is not something that concerns the creators of Faron Sage, and that’s evident in the way the music and videos are presented, so fans of this style shouldn’t take this project as a herald of a new spoken word trend. What said creators hope, however, is that their work is catchy and thought-provoking enough to get people to change their mind and realize that we are not, in fact, doomed to stay stuck in the current system. There is never “No Alternative;” in fact, alternatives abound. We just have to believe in them.