These are scones of anarchy.
Scones of anarchy were invented to accompany the new single from Calling All Astronauts (official site), a London indie band whose dark electro punk sound is roughly what would happen if Sisters of Mercy had a life-changing fling with the Sex Pistols, followed by a hot rebound relationship with Nine Inch Nails.
If London is calling (yes, I know, Clash), it’s time for New British cuisine. But New British restaurants exhibit stereotypical English reticence. Where a comparable American menu would gush and bubble about “farm-raised,” “grilled on a bed of fresh rampions,” and “raspberry-leek reduction,” its London cousin murmurs a stiff-lipped “hake with leeks” and moves on.
Stymied, I did the American thing and simple-mindedly (as opposed to Simple Plannedly) associated “English” with “afternoon tea,” settling on a multi-cultural and violently spicy scone that started from the Joy of Baking’s gingerbread scones (recipe) but mostly rebelled against dictates of mass baking culture. Are you ready to hear something new?
Confession: I fell for “Winter of Discontent” at the dance-club-turns-orchestral opening. I was entirely swept off my feet at the line “don’t know where our lifestyle went.” Recession electro-punk!
There may also have been swooning at the reference to globalism. At this point in the economic mayhem, anger sits better with me than proletarian weariness (Ronnie Dunn) or rueful musing on how it used to be a lot more fun to be an investment banker (arguably, Coldplay) or to have a retirement account (arguably, Matchbox 20).
Occupy the food processor! I’m making a half-ish batch, so what we have here is about 3/8 of a stick of butter, 3/4 of a cup of flour, and a generous half cup of oats. Whirr this into coarse crumbs and dump it in a bowl. (Also: preheat the oven to 400.)
To the bowl, add a nice chunk of brown sugar (about three tablespoons), a teaspoon of baking powder, a very scant half-teaspoon of baking soda, and a pinch of salt. Then, it’s all about the spices.
Those dark vocals are David B, who I believe also programs the sounds that aren’t strings. Those urgent guitars are JJ Browning, and the inexorable bass is Kristi Bury. The title — you recognize Shakespeare, yes? It’s a nifty little call for rebellion in the name of more localized concerns. (Seriously: York stayed local [and in Edward IV's case, married far too many local girls at once], while Tudor had notions about European adventures.) This fits with the lyrical emphasis on how leaders have sold off the people’s future over global aspirations.
Our spices represent how the British Empire brought home chutney and vindaloo. I’m still out of ginger. So go for a really whompus shake of cinnamon (at least a teaspoon), generous shakes of nutmeg, allspice, and coriander, and a pinch of white pepper. Mix it all up and add a handful of dried cranberries.
Calling All Astronauts’ prior single, “Someone Like You” has only those three words in common with the Adele hit. It’s a blistering indictment of consumer society. The blazing guitars — they’re exactly the sort of guitars that go with shots of helicopters, and helicopters are here! — woo me into this one with the uneasiness that afflicts the liberal middle-class American. I’m not exactly immune to the lure of designer goodies (cute shoes!), but I like to think of myself as above all that (as, indeed, I am, since my shoes are down there on my feet).
We need some liquid ingredients. Let’s try as close to a tablespoon of honey as I can manage from the honey bear (no, of course I don’t have molasses on hand), 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla, and 1/2 cup of apple juice. Mix it up.
Or maybe it’s a prescient indictment of the Facebook IPO. “You bask in the glory of others’ reflection, taking kudos from your virtual friends” fits. I could get behind that… except that I devote a certain amount of time to trying to absorb kudos from my Twitter friends. Social criticism is an uncomfortable thing, especially when it’s criticism of the mass-mediated world: how do you get the message out there without participating in the beast?
Also uncomfortable: my relationship with the scone. You know how Americans never quite understand cricket because baseball has used up those synapses in our brains? My scones tend to be biscuits or muffins with attitude. Grease a pie plate, spread in the batter, and make hopeful cuts. Into the oven it goes for 18 minutes!
This hiatus provides time to look up a couple references in the chorus. “Thirty pieces of silver” is easy. “Forty pieces of gold” sounds literary — it’s a Muslim story! Oh this is interesting. We know how Judas sold out Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. Sheik Abdul Qadar Jilani, who was a follower of Mohammed, went off on adventures with 40 pieces of gold sewn in his coat and orders from his mother to always tell the truth. When bandits asked if he had money, he told them the truth! Two didn’t believe him; the third robbed him but was driven to repentance by the experience. Greed is clearly bad, but that’s a different take on it.
Remember my threats to put the orange-flower-water icing on everything? Yup. It is made for these scones. They’re intense little spice-delivery systems, grounded by the oats and given a refreshing zap by the icing.
In texture, they’re probably closer to muffins, but that’s not entirely inappropriate to Calling All Astronauts’ running theme of critiquing how we’ve been led astray by mass culture.
Scones are otherwise an awkward mix with politics. I’m going to run with CAA’s indictment of specific values and actions, both because the message is fairly easy for the urban liberal to swallow and because I sense a veiled Lou Reed reference. But starving African children with scones? “What’s So Good?” indeed. (Perhaps appropriately, you have to use the link, as this one can’t be embedded.)