With trademark snarl and poignancy, Bob Vylan’s “Health Is Wealth” is a direct look at the punishment the poor must take purely to exist.
Stream: “Health Is Wealth” – Bob Vylan
Bob Vylan are one of the most exciting bands Britain has to offer right now.
Political, poignant and with zero regard for genre, their April 22nd album Bob Vylan Presents The Price Of Life should be on every music lovers calendar. Released on February 25th, latest single “Health Is Wealth” is a promissory note of excellence to come.
Leaning hard into the two-piece’s hip-hop side, it’s a simple song attacking a complex issue: The rising cost of being healthily fed. “It’s becoming harder and harder for people to eat… Full stop. But it’s even harder to eat healthy and look after ones mind, body and spirit when the price of food is going up, the cost of living is going up but the wages stay the same,” says the band in a statement.
While many take Audre Lorder ’s quote “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare” for an instagram caption, Bob Vylan live it. Revolution colours every corner of their discography. Their previous EP We Live Here is a living testament to this, covering everything from police brutality to lost friends to the lengths desperation pushes people. “Health is Wealth” picks off right where they left off.
The killing of kids with £2 chicken and chips
Is a tactic of war, waged on the poor
Can’t save wages on slave wages
And you don’t think fresh fruit
with your face on the floor
Nah, you need money for the kids
Rent and light plus food in the fridge
But that last box can be the hardest tick
‘Cause scraps will suffice but they might make you sick
But this isn’t some privileged, Gwyneth Paltrow bullshit—it’s a real and direct look at the punishment the poor must take purely to exist. It’s lived experience coupled with a deeper understanding of the systemic barriers that hold back poor and radicalized people across the country.
“Health is Wealth” also allows the London-based punk duo to show their versatility. There isn’t a guitar anywhere on this song, but it’s indisputably Bob Vylan. In a short time, they’ve carved themselves a niche in British punk, with a signature sound that can carry them to any corner of the genre map. It’s urgent without being preachy, direct while never punching down. It’s the kind of music that validates anger, justifies the worries that keep up at night, ultimately creating unity amongst a disparate working class. In short, it’s everything punk promised to be.
Earth getting hotter while the sea levels rise
All because you want burger with those fries
All because you want milkshake with the meal
Then to combat diarrhea you take pills
What’s the deal? Eat right, stay active
Stay strong ’cause the revolution is real
Never know when a man might have to dash
And a pig can’t kill what a pig can’t catch
This ethos allows them to step out of the genre’s tight limitations. When you’re the walking definition of punk, you can experiment a little. “Health is Wealth” is one of these sonic journeys. Depending on a steady drumbeat and sampled horns lay atop a subtle bass line that holds everything together, it’s a fitting soundscape for a message that resonates more with time. The vocals pound, at points feeling like another percussive instrument. It musically sits in one place, as the pit-in-your-stomach feeling and the mind-expanding message take you everywhere you need to go.
Bob Vylan inject the Black working class point of view into a genre where it’s severely lacking. In a toxic world where self-care has become radical, “Health is Wealth” is a vital song. “We want to encourage people to eat and live as healthy as they possibly can and remind people that when living with a government that is poisoning you with the food that is affordable, lack of investment in the mental health sector and is actively killing the planet with their agricultural and environmental practices, eating healthy and looking after yourself both mentally and physically is an act of revolution.”
Stream: “Health Is Wealth” – Bob Vylan
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📸 © Esmé Surfleet
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