Hear First: Virginia Wing’s private LIFE

An album premiere, plus an essay by frontwoman Alice Merida Richards about Thatcherism, “self-care,” and Young Marble Giants.

In 1980, Young Marble Giants released their single “Final Day,” a post-punk, post-apocalyptic minimalist masterpiece. “Final Day” describes the last desperate moments of a world reckoning with it’s own demise.

When the rich die last
Like the rabbits
Running from a lucky past
Full of shadow cunning

“Final Day” was released almost exactly a year after Margaret Thatcher was elected Prime Minister of Great Britain. Today, 41 years later, the effects of Thatcherism are still deeply embedded in our society. And with climate change altering our planet and a pandemic raging, the “Final Day” feels more and more like a looming date on the calendar.

 I was always struck by this opening line, as it starkly describes the reality of living under capitalism, that the lives of the rich are valued and protected above all others. That even at the very end, their wealth affords them a few more minutes. I don’t want to draw clunky parallels between this lyric and the current situation regarding inequality and COVID related deaths so I’ll just end this paragraph here.

In 2021, public discourse surrounding mental health has undoubtedly become more present and accepted in society than ever. We are aware of the ubiquity of anxiety (about a third of our society will experience anxiety disorders) and depression (one in five people in the UK experienced depression in 2020, double the amount of the previous year).

One crucial thing however, that is not frequently discussed, is the cause of our collective ill mental health. Why are we so sad? Is it fair to say that the rise of individualism, privatization, austerity, surveillance and inequality could be to blame? Could we be experiencing a universal trauma rooted in neoliberal ideologies? No, we have to blame ourselves. “You do not blame society. Society is not anyone. You are personally responsible,” as Thatcher said.

Thanks to our increased awareness about these issues, we have concocted solutions — we now have numerous mindfulness apps, a million infographics misappropriating the term “self-care” (sorry Audre Lorde) and a booming “wellness” industry. We can now purchase our own form of treatment. Not only are we responsible for our own mental illness, we are responsible for curing it. The burden is on us to change the lifestyles and habits that are supposedly the very cause of our anguish. The ideology behind Wellness can lead to a self-perpetuating cycle of guilt and shame. Perceived failings in life are compounded with perceived failings in the ability healing oneself.

It’s useful to me to recognize that both the cause of and proposed solution to ill mental health are born out of a capitalist, neoliberal society. It feels somewhat freeing to acknowledge that our self-perception is manipulated for profit. It also helps me to remember that, whilst we do live with the shadow of Thatcherism, some of us also live with the influence of Young Marble Giants. 

For me, music is often a path to understanding the world. It helps me process thoughts and feelings that I struggle to articulate. I have no idea if this album will help anyone articulate anything, but it is about trying to cope with the many problems that living in a society throws at us.

— Alice Merida Richards

private LIFE is available for preorder now via Fire Records.

Virginia Wing are a Manchester based group. Their album private LIFE is out February 2021 via Fire Records.