Regardless of intent, side or perspective, few protest songs are of lasting worth. Those that have managed to linger on as engrossing reminders of the power and the need to fight against it are penned by the greats of rebellious or political activism. Billy Bragg, Elvis Costello, and Jarvis Cocker all punch up at a system sneering down at those the former trio represent. Van Morrison attempts to assimilate himself into that group but finds himself at odds with reason as he takes aim and gives an empty drubbing of coronavirus restrictions. Perceiving these as anti-lockdown tracks and not shallow capitalisations on events current to the time is the real mistake made. No More Lockdown is a proven and obvious title but makes for a clumsy, cluttered single.
Because regardless of intent, beyond whatever it is Morrison hopes to stand by, No More Lockdown is a horrendously empty track. Chipper drubbings of not believing science or in the kneejerk responses of government. It is the emptiness that batters this song most of all. Regardless of intent, Morrison’s lyrics are the usual bile that can be found in the deep dives of Twitter. Sides, perspectives or opinions do not come into it, the key to protest music is not to take direct aim at a moment in history, but to conclude with a damning statement that can stand on its own merits. No More Lockdown is so obviously and inherently linked to the time that it fails to consider what makes it worth listening.
Similar troubles hit Ian Brown with Little Seed, Big Tree, but at least Morrison uses more than two chords on this and chimes in with a voice that still holds firm. His issue is with the lyrics. Anti-government momentum has driven the greatest of politically charged music, but Morrison fails to see the irony of using his own celebrity to push his opinions as he rallies against celebrities telling the public what to do. A lack of understanding for why that may be prevents No More Lockdown from making any real headway. In turn, No More Lockdown is as effective, if not less so, than draping a bollard with a Don’t Tread on Me flag. Morrison fears for the state of the world, and despite still holding a strong voice, the repetitive piano throughout makes this instrumentally dull and lyrically unbearable.
Terrible protest music knows no side in politics. Dexys Midnight Runners and Primal Scream coughed out Enough is Enough!, a laughably poor observation of a worthy cause. It is Morrison who points to a culturally relevant moment, gives it a shot and becomes one of the many to try and fail to give a troubled time its guiding light. The fact is, Covid is and likely will be too much of a headache to consider in song for some time. Movies have yet to figure that out, but the only singer to do it well so far is Frank Turner. The bar is high. Morrison comes nowhere close with this rambling bit of boredom. It is not quite a track to slot into the everyday favourite’s playlist, its prose so specific it marks itself redundant now the lockdown has ended.