Friday, October 24, 2008

Election countdown psyche-out: music defining the times

I don't usually like to get political on this blog, however with the election 11 days away, I can't help myself.

Music and politics do sometimes cross paths...more often than not, actually. There's lots of music out there that is political in nature, but there are only a handful of albums that can be deemed sharply topical enough to apply to the state of the country and the world over the course of this decade.

The music I have listed here is ranked in order of
significance, so if you're interested in picking any of these up I'd work from the top down. A small hint: it's a bit left-leaning.

So here it goes.
  1. Neil Young - Living with War (2005). The quintessential anti-Bush album; Neil Young's primal scream against the administration and its policies. Interestingly enough, Young comes across as more of a single voice in the crowd than some random complaining artist. That being said, Young has plenty to complain about, and he might actually have a point...Living with War involves mainly Iraq, and focuses on various aspects of war and its consequences. It also screams impeachment and the desire to look for a new leader. The most essential album of the times. Living with War is a very relevant and sympathizing with lots of the anger out there in the country.
  2. Green Day - American Idiot (2005). The Gen X version of Living with War, with the punk edge. It's not quite as heady as Young's album, but has its moments. It's actually refreshing to hear Green Day getting more personal and behind societal issues. The album has much more substance to it than just its title track, and it focuses on a wide array of issues Americans are facing today; including war and illegal survellaince...but it's mainly about Iraq.
  3. Roger Waters - Amused to Death (1992). Waters is totally amazing and prophetic...and one might conclude that the guy doesn't really like war. The subject matter of this project from the early 1990s calls out unrest and wars in the Middle East, as it came off the heels of the Gulf War...and Roger does it in a tone of sarcasm as only he knows how. It has a little bit of everything, including a musing on a cheering crowd-filled stadium and the voice of Marv Albert commentating on a sub torpedoing an oil tanker in sports play by play fashion, in addition to a skewering of Andrew Lloyd Weber. The subject matter, which involves war and how power and oil drives it, is as relevant today as it was 15 years ago.
  4. Rush - Snakes & Arrows (2007). Lyrically very heady, but there may be no piece of work out there that's more relevant to the state of the world. This is what you get when you hear an atheist Libertarian Canadian drummer commentating on the state of the world through a falsetto singer. Had Rush been an American band, Peart's lyrics probably wouldn't be as couched in metaphor, as the band is careful about coming across as too specifically topical when it comes to the American-based politics Canadians are affected and understandably frustrated by. However, Snakes & Arrows is as political as the band has ever been since 1984's Grace Under Pressure. The use of lines like "The battle flags are flown at the feet of a God unknown," obviously deliver the point straight home, and there's many more weighty and interesting moments in this project. Snakes & Arrows is a fascinating and mature response to the far-right religious ideology and dogmatic shit sandwich that has been shoved down the throats of many Americans, Canadians, and the like over the last several years. For those who sit down with it and take it all in, Peart's lyrics will have you pondering the subject matter long after the listen.
  5. Dixie Chicks - Taking the Long Way (2006). What can I say...I just couldn't help myself. There's no artist out there who's more relevant to what's been happening this decade than the Dixie Chicks...or more victimized. The subject matter in this album covers the issues they dealt with several years back when they took flack and were banned on many of the country airwaves after criticizing the Bush administration. Much about it involves their response to the I had to throw a personal call out here to these brave women and all the unneccessary crap they put up with. Here's to free speech...Dixie Chicks, this one's for you!
So those are the recommendations...only 11 days until the election! Rock the vote, everyone! Happy voting!

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