“Lovers Rock,” Episode 2 of “Small Axe,” December 14, 2020, Netflix. Welcome to the party. Steve McQueen shakes up the structure with a video snapshot in lieu of an ‘historical arc.’ Yet the purpose is the same: to take you inside a cultural milieu in the process of creating itself in the face of racism and discrimination in the UK, this time in 1980. The population is a mix of British-born and migrant Caribbean folk from the several islands. You’re taken to a house party with music and dancing provided by the Mercury Sound. Young men and women dress for success, sculpting their hair and looks.
It’s pay for play in the house, with an admission fee and refreshments for a price. Some can’t afford to enter. It is, after all, a struggling community. And there’s always risk from outside white folk and the police who are driving by. Abuse by men, including fellow immigrants, is always a threat for these women. You hear an amazing mix of tunes, ranging from romantic Lovers Rock, with sanctioned exploration on the dance floor, to revolutionary beats that generate an almost all-male war party exorcising demons in the same space. It captures a moment in time in the cultural lives of these young people and this community, and it’s a remarkable picture. See this one.