If your ears are drawn to political music, then buy or borrow Dorian Lynskey's 33 Revolutions Per Minute.
Lynskey, who contributes to the Guardian among other publications, has written the story of radical music from the 1930s to now.
It's narrative history, not sociological analysis - but Lynskey brilliantly captures the way individual artists' lives and talents intermingle with great social movements to create the songs that move people's feet on the dancefloor and the demonstration.
Songs above love of the struggle - as well as love of the best-looking girl in class.
At 864 pages Lynskey's book is obviously a labour of love. Like all true romantics he's anxious about the object of his desire.
Lynskey worries that the big political song's moment has passed - that both grand political movements and the centrality of popular music to young people have waned.
We've all done it - written gloomily at the bottom of the political cycle, thinking things might stay down forever.
But shortly after Lynskey handed in his manuscript a Tunisian rapper helped spark a revolution.
It must be one of the highest points in the history of protest music - in 2011 Hamada Ben Amor released a rap on Facebook under the pseudonym El General.
The rap - called Mr President - was fiercely critical of president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.
That song (worth a look on YouTube) and El General's arrest by 30 secret service agents were a significant factor in igniting the revolution that unseated Ben Ali and in turn fed the wider Arab spring.
Music and politics can still flow together with dramatic consequences.
But there are other reasons for Lynskey to be more cheerful.
His favoured model often seems to be the big crossover hit. He really grasps how it happens - when individual artists, inspired by social protest as well as their own talent, feed into wider movements.
The way the civil rights and anti-war movements of the '60s helped brew the psychedelic musical revolts or the conscious soul of Curtis Mayfield or Marvin Gaye.
The way disgust with the Callaghan and Thatcher governments and the protests of the Anti-Nazi League or urban riots fed the Clash or the Specials.
The way the post-Seattle anti-globalisation movement transformed Rage Against The Machine from a minority interest into spokespeople for a movement.
But it isn't all about the big time.
Lynskey certainly covers the apparently smaller underground moments and movements, but I'm not sure he always recognises their true power.
He does tell, for example, how Communist Party members and other radicals made folk music an essential prop for the trade union movements of the 1930s and '40s, and later the civil rights movement of the '50s and '60s, even running a folk music school for activists in Tennessee, sometimes in the face of ugly red-scare attacks.
Lynskey sees that impact because it is obvious when the underground goes overground.
But I think he could have more faith in the impact of the left-field that doesn't lead to a big hit.
Sometimes it isn't the crossover that makes the difference. It's the music that keeps the committed singing that holds together both musical and political radicalism.
This is often dismissed as "preaching to the choir," but if the choir isn't feeling good and isn't inspired they'll all go home - and we won't have any more singing.
Quite rightly Gil Scott-Heron has a strong presence in Lynskey's book. I saw him play in the '80s and '90s. He's one of the most successful political songwriters for years, but Scott-Heron didn't have a huge audience or massive hits.
Rather, to quote Dylan, he kept on keeping on.
He held together a mid-sized audience over many years. His songs offered a soundtrack to a committed audience, winning over some people but helping others to keep believing.
If music is recreation then people with social commitment need to create themselves again to face the next day with songs that sing about justice as well as love.
I was privileged to hear one "underground" voice this week when rapper Immortal Technique came to town in Southampton.
Technique is overtly, militantly socialist - a ball of energy throwing a bucketful of words at poverty, racism and imperialism over beats.
He opened the show with The Martyr, which is in effect a short lecture on guerilla-war tactics and counterinsurgency strategies - in rhyming couplets set to the tune of Eleanor Rigby.
He can run a scorching lyrical assault which I'm sure could - with the right application and safety precautions - be used to remove paint from wood.
But there is also lyrical flow and invention - he gets the line "capitalism and democracy are not synonymous" into a tightly delivered rhyme-scheme, alongside "Humanity is gone/Smoked up in a bong/by a Democrat, Republican, Cheech and Chong."
Technique also has more of a playful presence in person than on disc, backed by DJ Static and supporting MC's Poison Pen and Swave Sabah. This is a party, not a lecture.
It matters that there are artists who, in the middle of giving a "shout-out" to their DJ, crew and promoters, also offer thanks to "the people who have to sweep up this shit and clean it after we're gone, who never get thanked.
"The working class - without whom nothing is possible."
Born in Peru, brought up in Harlem, he has good reason to understand the limitations of liberal democracy.
In a remarkable feat he has for a decade been releasing records and touring on his own, without record company backing, having rejected offers that would have meant dropping his sharpest songs.
Offers he calls as attractive as "a blanket full of smallpox."
This might mean he isn't going platinum - but he can still travel thousands of miles to persuade a roomful of Southampton's baseball-hatted youth to chant Viva La Revolucion to his Spanish-language Golpe de Estada.
If you like hip-hop at all - and don't mind some profanity - head to www.viperrecords.com to get hold of any and all of his product.
And Dorian Lynskey's 33 Revolutions Per Minute (Faber, 2011)?
It's available from good bookshops.
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