For all those that genuflect at the heel of Tortoise as THE post-rock instrumental pioneers of the 90s, there’s a West Coast rival for that top title, Seattle’s Critters Buggin, who released their where-the-fuck-did-this-come-from debut, Guest, in 1994, the same year as Tortoise’s eponymous debut. So, let’s say these two are neck and neck in the historical horse race, but the Critters fellas take the lead in the endless permutations beyond the band they began with, keeping music weird ‘n’ wooly and way more fun than it’d be without them. Collectively, Skerik (saxophonics), Mike Dillon (percussion, keys), Brad Houser (bass, sax, clarinet) and Matt Chamberlain (drums) have done more than almost any four dudes to keep our general musical conversation lively. Daring, inscrutably clever and filled with foundational, ever-outstanding musicianship, these four exhibit a fearless reach that’s both pummeling and sometimes eerily beautiful. The music these guys make is profoundly interesting and profoundly entertaining – a truly groovy combo. Right now, the Critters have put all of their CDs on sale for $10 bucks each. It’s a catalog well worth investigating, a treasure trove for jazz heads that like to rock and rockers that don’t mind some sax smeared all over their thang. Shop til you drop here.
There’s a few things in life one can justifiably judge their fellow humans on – how they treat animals, how they treat their kids, whether they cheat or steal or kill – and in music I have a few similar litmus tests for whether someone has any real depth as a listener. One of them is whether someone gets what a national treasure Grayson Capps is. I’ll actually sit people down and make them listen to him – say the carnivorously carnal “Give It To Me” or the slow brewed ache “Ike” – and then ask what they think. If they get it – and it ain’t hard to get with a singer-songwriter of this caliber, this generation’s answer to the bruised perfection of vintage John Prine or Lowell George – then I know we’re gonna be fine. If they don’t get it, well, there’s a door and they shouldn’t let it hit them in the ass on the way out.
Capps is equal parts rock ‘n’ roll beast and pick-up truck troubadour. There’s rust and wrinkles on his tales, which hum with wisdom both streetwise and non-denominationally celestial. His characters ring true, kin to Sam Stone and Bobby McGee, and they move through a landscape drippin’ with verisimilitude – real stuff about real folks for real folks, weaving mythology and workaday madness together with the silver thread of love and quivering, shaky-at-best hope. He’s seen better days but he’s putting up with these, and he shows us how to do the same if we listen hard enough.
Capps’ latest release is titled The Lost Cause Minstrels (released June 7 on Royal Potato Family), which is also the name of his new band. Once again, critics with ears and more taste than what’s in their mouth should be short-listing this set for their Best of 2011 list, but the world is cruel and talent and truth like Capps’ is too often overlooked. Like many of Capps’ rabid fans, I feel the guy is a worthy cause, a musician that makes music in the meta-sense better and deeper and sweeter, too. His fifth studio record only reinvigorates this feeling, stirring up strange feelings and grins with a mixture of New Orleans sway, barroom ready rock and reverberant, folksy rumination. It is a spell that builds slow and sure, luring one back inside his grooves for reasons one can’t quite pin down in words, drawn to return to his world by forces one feels more than understands. Even if he’s reached a point where he murmurs, “Who the hell am I foolin’, I ain’t gonna be no star,” the music is only richer for that honesty. Most of us aren’t going to be celebrities and millionaires and we need music that pulls us together in the reality of our lives and gives us melody and phrase for this pain we’re carrying around. Lost Cause Minstrels is this sort of album, and there’s four more just like it – though each different in their own charming ways – that lie before it.
We got Grayson on the phone as he drove home to Alabama from New Orleans, and here’s the fruits of our lively chat.
There’s an element of testifying to your music. It’s a far cry from boy meets girl and goes to the dance type fare.
I can’t stand that stuff! Growing up and playing around the Southeast, which is such a conservative mindset, I grew up thinking outside the box. Like my cousin said, “Grayson, Jesus is the only way,” and that just irritates me. I can identify with these people but come on, there’s a whole world out there! I like to appeal to people but also draw them in and sucker punch them a bit, too. I get turned off if the word ‘politics’ or ‘economics’ or ‘religion’ is in a song. Ewww, turn it off!
Too often it’s stated too forthrightly in a Toby Keith kind of way. He’s not a bad guy but he’s become my shorthand for that kind of bubba thinking.
It’s a cheap laugh. You can always play the patriotism card. I won a high school election because I was an actor at the time and said, “I’m an American and I’m for everybody here!” I was being facetious but I won because people couldn’t see that. It’s like how Bruce Springsteen’s “Born In The USA” became a national anthem but if you really listen to the song it’s really not.
It’s a critique of what Reagan had wrought at that point…
…don’t even get me started on Reagan.
Grayson Capps and The Lost Cause Minstrels
This helps situate your mindset in your songs. You always write about people on the edges – the sandwich makers, the janitors, the overlooked and the lonely. Those are your people.
Well, those ARE the people. I just looked at an issue of Rolling Stone and it seemed like a high school yearbook with who’s dating who and such. I guess somebody likes it. It’s strange, but I’ve always been this way.
The Lost Cause Minstrels is an awesome name, but at the same time, I don’t want you putting ‘lost cause’ on an album cover just five records in.
I witnessed Jack White come up with The White Stripes when he was nobody then became a huge superstar, and now he’s an old retiree. Wow. I witnessed it all, and I’m still here doing this thing [laughs]. I’ve witnessed whole careers be born and die, and I’m still doing it.
That’s a kind of perseverance that people who need to do a thing exhibit.
I have a fan base that’s not huge but it’s real intense. For example, this woman’s husband died and he was a fan and she wants me to play this one song when he’s being buried. I have this widow that comes out to almost every show, no matter where it is. Her husband died almost two years ago and she’s found some sort of salvation [coming to these shows]. I have a bunch of crazy, intense fans. I don’t know what it is, but it’s really valuable to me whether I’m making money or not.
It goes beyond a job when it means that much.
To me it’s not a job. I did landscaping for almost 20 years while playing music and I came to the proverbial crossroads where I had to decide to do music or landscaping. Obviously, getting older, music was always what I wanted to do, but all I’m saying is I came at it with music as my outlet, my whole reason [for being], and I didn’t try to please anybody. Even to this day, if I find myself in a situation with music where I’m not happy I’ll go work with plants because there’s joy in that. If I’m not finding joy or rewards in music why do it? I need to pay a mortgage and buy gas to the next gig and food to eat but after that’s taken care of it’s a dream world playing music right now and making a living at it.
You’ve been on a constant evolution since your first record. The music just keeps growing in a real natural way.
Good! I hope so because my only insurance as a musician is to get better. So I better get better! When I’m old I want to be really good. I’m definitely not going to be like the Eagles and doing my greatest hits when I’m 60…mainly because I don’t have even one hit [laughs]. Hopefully I’ll be making hits then.
There’s a level of togetherness on the new album that I think could serve as a good handshake to folks who haven’t heard your music before.
I’ll put it up against anything that’s out there right now. Trina [Shoemaker], my partner who engineered and produced this record, is beyond professional. We’ve been making records together for a long time, and I think we’ve found a comfort zone, or maybe we’ve figured out how to achieve what we want. I also changed my whole band except my drummer, and hopefully that means growth, too. I’m just amazed at some stuff that gets away with being called music.
One picks up on musicians really serving songs on Lost Cause Minstrels, which I think is key – obvious humanity and blood and muscle right in the notes.
Definitely. A lot of artists use that Auto-Tuning and I’ve never used it because Trina always talks about loving when a singer starts a little off then scoops into it. You don’t get that with a lot of more polished artists because they want it to be big and seamless…
…and readymade to slot in with all the homogenous stuff that’s already on the charts. I can’t even imagine what your voice would sound like with Auto-Tune. Your voice has so much character and your phrasing is really unique.
I don’t think it would work [laughs].
We would never have gotten any of the classic 60s soul sides with Auto-Tune. Aretha and Otis were all about pushing things into the red, particularly with the mics they had in those days. I’ve said it in the past about you, but it bears repeating: You have a LOT more in common with classic artists like these than you do with most contemporaries. It makes much more sense to compare you to Kristofferson, Prine and Lowell George.
Those are my heroes. It may be part of my downfall, but I’ve never been a pop fan. It’s always been into Tom T. Hall and John Prine. People are trying to tell me about Arcade Fire and I say, “Have you heard Levon Helm’s last two records?” And they go, “Who?” What? Who the hell are you to tell me about ‘the best band in the world’ when you don’t even know who Levon is?
People just don’t have the history with music. One of my favorite records ever is Leon Russell’s Carney. It’s short – probably 38 minutes long – and growing up with that…man. That’s where Trina and I connect ‘cause she’s a seventies rock chick. She loves Bad Company and says, “It’s magic. How did they do that?”
There’s a lot of mythology about classic rock but it is music that doesn’t seem dated. It’s so well produced, played and written, especially compared to what’s coming out today. You can still put it on the radio and it holds its own. It’s a kind of skill and craftsmanship that’s really going out of the business.
It had some depth, too. When they hit those floor toms – wow! Some of those recordings by The Band are some of the greatest of all-time.
It must be frustrating on some level to shoot for that sort of benchmark and realize most of the world isn’t shooting for it anymore.
I’ve given up generalizing, though I agree with you on the mainstream, although I finally got somebody to expose me to My Morning Jacket, and that’s pretty intense. I saw them live somewhere and didn’t get it, and then I heard a recording and liked it. It’s kinda like Pink Floyd meets something else [laughs]. It’s enticing and the sound’s good. There’s all kinds of good music out there like The Black Keys. Trina knows Tchad Blake, who did the Brothers record, and it pisses me off that in interviews they say, “It was just the two of us in Muscle Shoals laying down guitar and drum tracks.” She talked to Tchad, who got these naked tracks and they told him, “Just do your thing to them.” There’s bass and keyboards, and it’s intense. It just makes me jealous really because they have lots of money and Tchad Blake [laughs]. They are great songwriters though, and I think Dan is a great singer, too. And there’s Junior Kimbrough all over him [in his guitar playing]. It’s just so obvious [laughs].
You’re one of the only people besides myself that’s ever brought up Junior in relation the Dan Auerbach’s playing, which just speaks to the general ignorance of music journalism about them. So, I wanted to touch on your move away from New Orleans, where you spent a huge part of your career. That city has been in the fabric of your songs for a long, long time.
It’s so strange. I think my next set of songs is going to be called Jaded [laughs]. I just moved back to Fairhope, Alabama, which is about two and a half hours away from New Orleans. I’ve started a regular gig on Tuesdays at Chickie Wah Wah in New Orleans, which is great but I’m still the black sheep of that community. Like Anders Osborne comes in and just embraces it and even talks like he’s from New Orleans. It’s wild! He became what he loves, and I’m not putting him down at all – he’s wonderful – but I never got embraced by New Orleans even though I’ve had my own little niche there. I’m half Alabama and half New Orleans. It’s a confusing mixture. There’s this guy who’s doing something sorta funky but he’s country, and he’s definitely white and hairy. Something’s not right with this [laughs].
I’m not a dance band, and I don’t aspire to be. I don’t know what I’m trying to do. My parents were both school teachers, and my dad was a preacher for a while. I’ve read so much philosophy, and I studied theatre for awhile. I know if people are dancing that’s a soul thing, and I’m more into epiphany, revelation, the magic that happens when people transcend. People can do that by dancing into a frenzy, and that’s great but I only know how to do that verbally. I feel like I’m learning more about music every year and the music is getting stronger and better.
Within the dense aural stew that is Umphrey’s McGee some of the greatest, wrist-twistin’ stirring going on is done by keyboardist Joel Cummins. Nestled inside one of the burliest rhythm sections around and sandwiched between the ferocious twin guitar assault of Jake Cinninger and Brendan Bayliss, Cummins rides, textural and sophisticated but nearly never flashy. He’s active as hell but not in ways that demand head-snap attention, always serving the music before his ego, and in the process becoming the secret ingredient inside what is arguably progressive rock’s greatest new top tier band in the past decade.
His solos are compact marvels that should already have him on Becker & Fagen’s shortlist for the next Steely Dan album, but generally Cummins is an instrumental conversationalist, commenting on and coaxing the best ‘dialog’ he can from his compatriots. When he does step out front he’s likely to make you sigh with the sheer beauty or intense emotional oomph of his playing. However, his ear for what isn’t being done by others – and unerring knack for filling that open space – is phenomenal. He watches and listens with undisguised enthusiasm, moving with real grace between multiple instruments in a single piece, taking from each just what each measure needs. If one wants proof of this dynamic look to Umphrey’s excellent 2011 release Death By Stereo (released September 13 on ATO), a pithy lesson in what this young yet remarkably mature keyboardist is capable of. In fact, the whole band has boiled down their wide spectrum reach into their most direct, immediately engaging collection yet, undoubtedly another stepping stone towards the heights they seem to continually climb.
Cummins is currently on a brief West Coast tour with Digital Tape Machine, who play tonight, December 2nd, in Hollywood and tomorrow, December 3rd, in San Francisco.
Here’s what Joel had to say in the Impound’s keyboardist survey.
Deathcember, DI’s annual rumination on mortality and the end of things, is back! From the dead even! Don’t fear the reaper, dance with him. Here’s the first of four weeks of scythe swinging sounds for you and yours.
If you experience playback problems, pop over to the 8tracks mix page and it should play fine.
We set the timer and snuggle in with our favorite new bands in the Impound’s version of speed dating with a killer-diller soundtrack.
Ghosts of Jupiter by Michael D. Spencer
“I consider the circumstance/ and mold it into sound/ and whatever the trappings are/ I’m bound to shout it down.”
These tough, knotted lines open the roaring good self-titled debut album from Boston-based Ghosts of Jupiter, which seizes and holds one firm, a bold, musky sound that recalls the halcyon days of double gatefold vinyl and perfectly weathered denim and suede. That said, these Ghosts are cut a little leaner, forgoing 70s bloat for taut, meaty musicianship grounded in marvelously melodic frameworks. Heck, a lot of this set is radio ready if radio weren’t such a seething sinkhole of suck these days – we’d all be WAY better off if Ghosts of Jupiter were the yardstick for rock airwaves instead of Nickelback.
The album, released November 8, builds seamlessly, growing more interesting and throwing off expectations as it moves towards its final stand in softly burning fields where blackbirds fly overhead and the shoreline wind catches us with a snap – evocative stuff to say the least. And yet, it never feels cerebral, giving into animal instincts musically in a way that makes one wonder if Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott left some pale boy children around Beantown before he took his bow. Nate Wilson (lead vocals, keyboards), Johnny Trama (guitar), Adam Terrell (guitar), Tommy Lada (bass), and Thomas Arey (drums) are part of real rock’s new phalanx, shoulder to shoulder with The Black Keys, Rival Sons and The Raconteurs beating back the teen-focused twaddle that passes for rock in the mainstream.
We grabbed Nate Wilson to discuss Jupiter’s orbit.
In terms of official documents, The Barr Brothers aren’t exactly prolific. Brad and Andrew Barr have been making music together since childhood but even with multiple projects (including The Slip and Surprise Me Mr. Davis), the siblings have only released a handful of studio works. A profound sense of care infuses their albums, where each number has been loved and massaged in a way that gets into the cellular structure – a seemingly natural character that’s the product of intelligent design. It’s an approach that makes past works like The Slip’s under-sung Eisenhower (2006) and Surprise Me’s That Man Eats Morning For Breakfast presents waiting to be unwrapped at any time, i.e. music not locked into the time frame of its creation. This sense has never been more palpable than The Barr Brothers’ self-titled debut released this past September, a song cycle that hums with contemporary and ancient subtext, a mixture of traditional sounds and modernity’s cross-pollinating drive. These tunes breathe with moist reality, a scent filled with ideas that keep one awake at night or perhaps usher in a new sun on brighter days – music that feels unutterably alive. That they’re able to achieve this in the finite world of a studio is impressive and makes one patient for each new chapter since experience has shown it’s worth the wait.
Thankfully, the Barrs are touring regulars who frequently offer up new music in front of audiences. The band – which is fleshed out beautifully by harpist Sarah Page and multi-instrumentalist Andres Vial starts a new slate of shows this Wednesday, November 30th, in South Burlington, VT. You can see the full tour here, and here’s what Andrew and Brad had to say to our inquiries to get you in the mood.
If I had a hammer I’d break every fucking copy of “If I Had A Hammer (The Hammer Song).” I got nothing against Pete Seeger but traditional protest folk music has always grated against my sensibilities – its abject earnestness, its flagrant moral superiority, its sing-along simplicity. The people writing and singing this kind of music are selling Bibles in a church parking lot. Without question it can be effective but if one hasn’t drunk the Kool-Aid it’s not especially useful or even welcome even if one agrees with the basic sentiments.
The growing proliferation of classic folkies (and their modern descendents) showing up at Zuccotti Park – Joan Baez, Crosby & Nash, Tom Morello, Peter Yarrow, and Seeger himself – got me thinking about the differences between this movement’s character and the 1960s civil rights uprisings and where music fits in. The ideas of Seeger’s omnipresent anthem remain sound – “I’d hammer out danger/ I’d hammer out a warning/ I’d hammer out love between my brothers and my sisters” – but the tone is all wrong for the young generation rubbing sand in Wall Street’s Vaseline. The cynicism and broad pop culture understanding of the majority of folks pitching tents and mic checking across the U.S. (and now the entire planet) can’t be underestimated. A profound distrust of ANY power structure is central to the Occupy Movement, seen most obviously in the adamant refusal to designate official leaders and figureheads. They understand how even a bit of power is almost always inherently corrupting in this messed up system we find ourselves awash in.
As someone whose political and social awakening was ushered in as a high school student during the Reagan years, I’ve always had a more combative attitude than most traditional leftie protesters. I’m not endorsing violence but I’m attracted to scrappers, people willing to get bloodied by the powers that be, smiling as they stand in the face of dumbness and overreaching authority, a posture that screams, “Come on, motherfuckers, let’s throw down!” without ever needing to throw a punch. Punk rock provided the coal for my young engine, particularly the snarky insights of the Dead Kennedys, the never-dumb-it-down polemics of Bad Religion, and especially the hugely diverse musical sweep and utterly wise yet often funny directness of The Clash.
I’m a generation removed from the college students and similarly dispossessed youth spearheading the Occupy Movement but it’s hard to believe they’ve grown more comfortable with traditional protest music’s platitudes and often painful sincerity. In a broad sense, folks involved in the Occupy Movement are pissed off – massively and achingly pissed off and not entirely clear where to aim their anger, fear and frustration. Some targets are easy – Wall Street, Congress – but at this early stage one of the only things there’s consensus on is there’s something wrong and something must be done about it. Simply giving voice to these feelings – a thunderous, wounded shout from the streets – is actually enough for now.
Ginsberg understood this, his famous Howl beginning, “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,” and concluding, “In my dreams you walk dripping from a sea-journey on the highway across America in tears to the door of my cottage in the Western night.” He’s describing the long road through personal pain that becomes public pain, a stabbing discomfort that must be expressed aloud, and in doing so one discovers that they are not alone, that they share common ground and common cause with people they would likely have never known, the “others” on the other side of our many fences that look and act and dream and suffer just like us.
It’s said the greatest lie the Devil ever pulled off is to make us believe he doesn’t exist. The power mongers in the financial sector and the government don’t want the system discussed. They don’t want to hear about the reality of their choices from the people living the society they’ve engineered. Nick Cave once observed:
Money, man, it is a bitch
The poor, they spoil it for the rich
With my face pressed in the clover
I wondered when this would be over
And at home we are all so guilty-sad
Right now at what is hopefully the start of real, immensely needed change for the 99-percent, what’s required are songs that angry up the blood, anthems to make the homebound hit the parks and plazas and lend their numbers and voices to a cause that might just overturn the apple cart so the majority can get a bite of the harvest…or simply feed their children…or feel like what they do and desire matters and is reflected in a larger sense by our culture. The values and concerns of the vast majority are at direct odds with the existing power structure yet a sizeable chunk of the populace remains unmoved, the suffering and crazy-making unfairness of it all still kept at a comfortable distance so reality doesn’t have to sink in, oblivious to how one job loss, a few late mortgage payments, a contested medical claim, or any of a thousand other inevitable turns of fate are the only thing standing between them and the laissez-faire, market-worshipping world outside their window.
Where we find ourselves today isn’t an accident. It is a series of fiendishly interconnected, heartlessly constructed systems designed to fuck anyone who isn’t privy to their inner workings. Lip service Christians and vote courtin’ politicians spouting truisms about the generosity and kindness of the American people aren’t talking about the dillholes at the top of the heap. No one who lives in that high place and refuses a 6-percent tax hike so that bridges don’t collapse and the poorest of us can eat breakfast and get an education has any claim to compassion. There’s still a resistance to call out the people who are working day and night to keep their white-knuckled grip on power and riches for being as callous and short-sighted as they are. Well, this soundtrack aims to do just that, and I hope it prods anyone who listens to it to some action for the greater good.
1. Know Your Rights – The Clash
“You have the right to remain silent/ You are warned that anything you say can and will be taken down and used as evidence against you.” Combat Rock arrived in 1982, and the subject matter of this track was old news then. America is still not living up to its ideals in reality. No one deserves investigation or humiliation to put bread on their table.
2. I Party All The Time – Gang of Four
“We are not prisoners – although we’re putting in the hours/ We are not innocent – although we’re singing in the choir/ If there’s a revolution then you’ll stay home.” It’s hard to stop living a carefree, oblivious existence, especially when it’s so easy to have fun.
3. Binge And Purge – Clutch
“I’ve got nothing to lose but my apathy.” Once you figure out that the guns – literal and metaphorical – are pointed at you it really focuses one’s attention. A fight song for those that don’t yet realize they’re in a battle.
4. Before You Die – Bad Religion
“Rewrite the morals, rectify the nation/ Now may be your time.” We’ve only so many hours before we shuffle off this mortal coil and what we do with them matters – for today and for the tomorrows those we love live after us. Think about it and act accordingly.
5. A Young Man’s Money – Ivan Julian
“See, we can get this and that in every which way/ But we get the same thing right or wrong/ I think about it all the time/ And wrap my cage around me.” A snarling inducement to knock the mold off musty, crippling systems.
6. Welcome To The Factory – Backyard Tire Fire
“You’re locked on the clock/ You’re ready to blow/ And nobody knows.” The grind and workaday desperation of repetitive labor whirrs in this gutbucket wail from one of Illinois’ best bands.
7. The Power’s Out – Flogging Molly
“Forgive me for dreaming it’s all I have left/ Except this pending foreclosure and mountains of debt.” Detroit shines as a beacon of what market/corporate thinking produces in the end, a cautionary tableau of where the rest of America is going if we continue on our current path. Kudos to Dave King and the rest of Flogging Molly for hunkering down in the Motor City to record their fantastically timely new album Speed of Darkness (Impound review). This is a thumb in the eye of blood sucking leech CEOs everywhere.
8. Zombie Blues – The Denmark Veseys
“Zombies in the blue states and zombies in the red/ Just another country of the living dead/ There are zombies of all colors, black and brown and white/ There are zombies on the left and zombies on the right/ There are zombies that have money and zombies who are poor/ And they’re brandishing Kalashnikovs and mopping up the floor.” Jerry Joseph is wise in many ways and the guy pulls NO punches, including the haymakers he throws at himself. Being honest about our own role in sustaining a poisonous system is important.
9. Hard Day On The Planet – Loudon Wainwright III
“Don’t turn on the TV, don’t show me the paper/ Don’t want to know he got kidnapped or why they all raped her/ I want to go on vacation till the pressure lets up.” Pretending things aren’t “tough all over on Earth” isn’t going to make the problems go away.
10. Things Goin’ On – Lynyrd Skynyrd
“Well, they’re goin’ ruin the air we breathe/ Lord have mercy/ They’re gonna ruin us all, by and by/ I’m telling all you beware/ I don’t think they really care.” Ronnie Van Zant was a deeper rabble-rouser than his legacy suggests. This call to “stand up and scream” comes from the band’s 1973 debut and is but one of many insightful blows he landed before his too, too early demise.
11. Funky Dollar Bill – Funkadelic
“It’ll buy you a life but not a true life/ The kind of life where the soul is lost.” What do we value as a country? Is it a quarterly profit guarantee or is it clean water, art, caring for the sick and needy? The almighty dollar can be used for good or ill, but it’s only a tool for the humans pushing it around. What do YOU want to make with this tool?
12. This Fucking Job – Drive-By Truckers
“Working this job is like a knife in the back/ It ain’t getting me further than the dump I live in/ It ain’t getting me further than my next paycheck.” The sense that we’re stuck and there is zero chance of improvement is creeping into our bones. We’re losing the belief that there’s anything else other than what we’ve got. It’s a lie, but changing the dynamics of day-to-day existence for the majority isn’t going to come quickly or easily.
13. ¡Let Freedom Ring! – Chuck Prophet
“Let there be darkness, let there be light/ As the hawk cripples the dove/ Over and over watch the dove die as they rip out the floorboards of love.” How we define a word is crucial. Even Fox News clatters endlessly about “American freedom” but what does it actually mean to be ‘free’ in the current context? Chuck dissects the double plus good rhetoric with humor and deft skill here.
14. I’m Gonna Assemble A City – These United States
“I’m gonna assemble a city right in the heart of their war/ I’m gonna sit in my lawn chair as the missiles and maggots bore/ I’m gonna sit in my lawn chair with a pointed but good-natured grin, letting the strangers that pass know they are always welcome to come in.” The launch of the Occupy Movement in New York City and the way the community evolved in Zuccotti Park is mirrored in this prescient number from 2009’s Everything Touches Everything, which is filled with hymns for kind revolutionaries everywhere.
15. Old News – Dr. Dog
“We’ve been toiling our tears hit the soil/ Taking up a voice from a flower field of noise.” A kiss to those sleeping in the street and dreaming loud enough for all to hear. It really is time to wrap up our old blues and toss them away.
16. Take ‘Em Down – Dropkick Murphys
“When the boss comes calling, don’t believe their lies.” This pro-union corker got some attention from NPR and elsewhere earlier this year but it’s not about one state or one boss – it’s about who we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with. The folks in power – almost to a one – aren’t interested in sharing that power and privilege, and it will take the might of the many to pry it from their hands.
17. Mean Streak – John Gorka
“No money coming in/ It’s all going out/ I’m standing on the corner/ In the shadow of doubt.” Things feel desperate for an increasing number of people. What stability we possess seems tenuous at best, and even if we don’t know how we’ll manage we cannot let the powers that be continue to take advantage of the 99-percent.
18. Is This Thing Working? – Todd Snider
“”You gonna hit somebody, today? You gonna hit me too/ In fact, you’re gonna hit me every day, because now I’m picking on you.” People who would steal pensions, starve the hungry and condemn the sick to die are bullies. People who compensate themselves to tune of thousands of times what the average worker in their company makes are bullies. The folks Occupy is confronting are thugs and jerks and bullies, and part of why they and the mainstream media and Mayor Bloomberg (and mayors like him) are upset is they’ve been exposed. They’ve been stealing our lunch money for decades and they don’t want to stop. Well, a hearty fuck you to all of them. Now we’re picking on you.
19. Can We Really Party Today? – Jonathan Wilson
“With all that’s going on/ shouldn’t we get started today?” Again, distraction and personal pleasure are wonderful opiates. The rise of video game culture and pocketsize entertainment in general is not an accident. It’s nicer to take a hike in the woods and pop open a sixer with one’s pals, but there’s important shit to be done. Let’s not forget that.
20. Last Year – Akron/Family
“Last year was such a hard year/ For such a long time/ This year’s gonna be ours.” A simple, open-ended chant for the Occupy Movement as 2011 nears its close. Keep up the charge and 2012 might just be our year.