TV nostalgia shows tend to portray the 80's in Britain as nothing but yuppies, Wham, shoulder pads and conspicuous consumption. The other side of Britain - for example, the millions made unemployed by the decline in traditional industries - has had very few voices.
Without wishing to sound pretentious, "Thunder and Consolation" was a powerful outcry from the excluded and increasingly powerless part of society. The album has an overall texture of fractured lives and the punk-era cries for resistance become increasingly tinged with disillusion and aspirations toward withdrawal, isolation and escape.
Don't let this put the prospective buyer off: the album is not a simple "them and us" Ken Loach polemic. The tracks have a tremendous variety, from the elegiac "Green and Grey" to the lust-for-life power of "125 MPH" and the adrenalin pace of "225" (the title refers to the beats per minute of the track). "Archway Towers" is particularly and deliberately discordant, mirroring the subject matter, "Bodmin Pill" is unquantifiable - not quite a ballad but touched with humanity and fragility - and the storming "Vagabonds" - perhaps _the_ definitive NMA track - makes us pine for a way of life that most of us will never experience.
For me, the standout pieces are "Green and Grey" or "Vagabonds", depending on my mood. I doubt that everyone will take to every track on the album but there is more than enough here to please virtually every music fan. If you only own one NMA album then make it this one.