27 July 2006


Eight Anti-Government Songs To Play In A Senate Office Building

Welcome back to the monumental expanse of Washington, D.C., currently shimmering like a god-damned mirage amidst heat that melts marble into taffy. Intern for a public policy think tank, you stalk the high marble hallways and polished hardwood of, say, Dirksen, briefcase in hand, tailored into a grey suit, hair shorn, shoes polished, a folded copy of Roll Call or The Hill in the crook of your arm. You are the model of colorless establishment.

And so there's a sneaking and indulgent feeling of subversion to letting the six inches between your ears shudder to private and anarchic cacophony - in wearing earbuds at all. In a city built on dry and faded restraint, on old suits, shoulders flecked with dandruff, on sagging folds of skin, overripe power, itching wool - on an aching indifference to chic - these songs can remind you that, in theory at least, you haven't yet sold out.

1. "All You Fascists," Mermaid Avenue Vo: II. Billy Bragg & Wilco.
Woody Guthrie rails from the grave against fascism, Jim Crow, union-busters. Jeff Tweedy strangles a harmonica, and guitars squeal cathartic fury. All you fascists, we are told, are bound to lose. And: You fascists are bound to lose. And: You're bound to lose, you fascists, bound to lose. Why? People over this world are getting organized. Would that it were so.

2. "The Big Three Killed My Baby," The White Stripes. The White Stripes.

Jack White screams over plugged-in dirty blues stomp that shambles monster-like and bereved. Sinister and obtuse allusions to war in the Middle East abound: "Don't let them tell you the future's electric - 'cause gasoline's not measured in metric! Thirty thousand wheels are spinnin' - and oil company faces are grinnin'! And now my hands are turnin' red! And I found out my baby is dead!"

3. "16 Military Wives," Picaresque. The Decemberists.
An electric piano bounces along infectiously while a brass band hits the exclamation points and Colin Maloy cheerfully proclaims If America says it's so - it's so!, and impersonates a media babbling affirmative nonsense for the chorus. Meanwhile, soldiers die abroad and their wives are served up on beds of lettuce. It may be the catchiest anti-war song ever.

4. "Plymouth Rock," Pixel Damage. John Vanderslice.
John Vanderslice, sobering us up, sings a burbling and immaculate eulogy narrated by an American soldier shot in the throat while he jumps off a helicopter deck into a moonless Tuwaitha night. Sew me up again, he gasps. Get me out of here. And then, quietly, to us: I lost the reason - I lost the reason I'm here.

5. "Taxman," Revolver. The Beatles.
The Beatles are comfort food. Shake off violent death. Swallow three-part harmony and syrupy pop hooks while taxmen Mssrs. Wilson and Heath continue politely to bleed you dry. Their position on the estate tax? For those who die: declare the pennies on your eyes.

6. "Fight the Power," Fear of a Black Planet. Public Enemy.
Whether your idea of the powers that be is the patriarchy, the white establishment, the monied classes, the educated elite, or the people with the guns & money, if you're walking down Dirksen's halls on a weekday, you're right there with them. It's hard not to shout along to the chorus, especially since Chuck D lays on some constitutional law to bring us in: Our freedom of speech is freedom or death. Thing is, that's true, especially with the snipers up top.

7. "Good Morning," Hell's Winter. Cage.
Fuzzing electronica and a guitar build up a post-apocalyptic, swaggering paranoid howl of a song that cracks open with Cage spitting out disjointed couplets - Homeless cardboard cribs, cops shoot civilians / Vendors rap stars Wall Street billions, he shouts headlong. Skyscrapes - planes hit 'em / Army in the subway High risk / Orange alert everyday. Don't worry, though; Cage says somewhere near the end that he's got room for a few of you in his car when martial law hits.

8. "Subterranean Homesick Blues," Bringing It All Back Home. Bob Dylan.

Feel that paranoia creep over your head like a skullcap while the gui-tar plays. D.A.'s and wiretaps are everywhere, there's bomb-throwers, fire hoses, dirty cops and jailhouses. Bust's coming early May and your crime's unknown, but you're doing it again. Meanwhile, president says he can still waterboard you 'til you spit up blood. Keep a clean nose. Watch the plainclothes. You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

Missed a song? Ideas for another list? Post in the comments section.


John B. said...

Sorry--I got a bit carried away.

"Born in the U.S.A.," Bruce Springsteen

"Amerika v. 6.0 (The Best We Can Do)," Steve Earle (thinking in particular the live version on Just an American Boy, recorded in the week the U.S. launched its invasion of Iraq in March of 2003)

"Cult of Personality," Living Colour

"If I Had a Rocket Launcher," Bruce Cockburn. Recorded back in the days of the Nicaraguan civil war. Not raucous, but his obvious rage makes up for that lack

"Ignoreland," REM

And just for sheer apocalyptic power, "When the Levee Breaks," on Led Zeppelin's 4th album.

And a quick comment: these posts from Washington have been just magnificent. Thank you for them.

Bryan said...

The thought of you listening to Public Enemy's "Fight the Power" anywhere is amusing, but in our nation's capital, it takes absurdity to monumental proportions.

Matthew W. Stenovec said...

"Atomic Power" as sung by Uncle Tupelo.

Check out this little montage created as an homage (I like the sibilence of those words together)


Keep hope alive, Jimbo.


Dave said...

This song by rapper Eminem talks about the American people waking up and taking a stand against the lies that have been fed to us by the government.

Die For Your Government- Anti-Flag
This song by punk band Anti-Flag takes a brief history of the horrors that the government has exposed the people to, and those people are dying in war to defend a country that could care less about them.

Ron Paul Revolution-Aimee Allen
This revolutionary song calls for the support of revolutionary politician Sen. Ron Paul and the support of his ideals. The song calls out the illegal acts that government has done to the people and screams for a change...nay a revolution.

"If Tyranny & Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy." --James Madison

Jonathan said...

Dude, not many people know Aimee Allen! That's sick that you mentioned her, she's a fricken awesome lyricist and musician.

We're Not Gonna Take It by Twisted Sister

The Sound by KRS-One is good too