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Politics in music

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I have a serious problem with bands that use their music as an excuse to write cheap political songs. I don’t care what their affiliation or beliefs are, I just don’t care for being preached to.

I make occasional exceptions for bands that can write clever or thought out political songs, but most political tunes you find in a lot of your ‘8os hardcore punk bands and all generations of punk are very simplistic and, frankly, irritating.

I separate social commentary from politics, because I think talking about life around you is perfectly acceptable. Everyone has different experiences in life, so listening to someone’s view on society makes sense. But take Reagan, for instance. You can like Reagan, hate Reagan, or be somewhere in the middle. Now there aren’t a lot of middle of the road songs about Reagan, nor are there a lot of, “REAGAN, FUCK YEAH!” songs. Most songs about Reagan aren’t so positive. So how can one listen to band after band sing the same songs?

I am looking at Anti-Flag song titles at the moment. Here we have: ‘Fuck Police Brutality,’ ‘Fuck the Flag and Fuck You,’ ‘Fuck the Pope.’ Do their creative talents never fade? What… brilliant titles alone!

Hey, look at the song “Fuck the Flag and Fuck You”:

‘Brainwashing / Piece of Rag / Take it off mast, and stick it up your ass / Now it’s time to slaughter / In its fucking honor’

If only the back of my car was big enough to fit that bumpersticker.

But I’m sure ‘Fuck the Pope’ is a fine example of song writing genius. How could it not be?

‘I don’t want your fucking dogma / I don’t believe in what you preach / don’t want your fucking bullshit / You infect everyone you teach

You offer prepacked salvation / For the guilty chosen few/ You say we’re all just sinners /Say it to the altar boy you screw’

Wow, you have to be kidding me, right? Another joke about Catholic priests raping young boys in a song that’s already filled with trite lyricism?

Here’s a gem from ‘Die for the Government’ (original!): ‘But don’t believe what they say, because your government is lying / They’ve done it before and don’t you know they’ll do it again.’

No shit man.

But let’s say I go pick on other bands for awhile instead.

Oh, here we go, The Dead Kennedys. Here’s a piece from Stars and Stripes of Corruption:

‘I looked up at the Capitol Building / Couldn’t help but wonder why / I felt like saying “Hello, old friend”

Walked up the hill to touch it / Then I unzipped my pants / And pissed on it when nobody was looking’

Nice, Jello. Dude, it looks like a 3rd grader wrote this!

This list could go on for awhile; I could include stupid songs like American Idiot, after all!

The problem with punk is that it tries to do things it’s not capable of. It is hard to condense a complex issue into a slogan and have anyone but disgruntled teenagers take you seriously. It is the 30 second soundbyte of music. Punk is suited fine for anger and fine for railing against things. It can even be suited for positive messages. But the minute punk bands try to get angry about politics, they compress complex issues into phrases like ‘fuck the pope.’ Yeah, okay guys, we really take you seriously. But the problem is that some people do take them seriously! Sort of how you see ‘Real Men Love Jesus’ and ‘When the rapture comes, this car will be empty’ bumperstickers.

That said, there are some cool political songs out there. I think to be a good political song, it should be one that reaches out to people who may not necessarily agree with its message even. It should just be well-written, and people should be able to appreciate it for that.

So here is, in my opinion, an example.


Written by M

June 5, 2008 at 6:15 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

4 Responses

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  1. Is that Ben Lee? I like this article. I know you don’t like Bright Eyes, but I always thought “When the President Talks to God” was an OK political song. I hate how overblown and OMG!1!!! it is, though. But everything with that band is.

    Anywayz. It makes punk bands (or any band that does it) seem really really immature when they write songs like that.

    Jacob Z

    June 6, 2008 at 10:35 am

  2. Yeahh. And actually, I do dig that song. Aha, it’s the only Bright Eyes song I’ve ever enjoyed.

    Marshall B

    June 6, 2008 at 3:03 pm

  3. Oh, and it’s Ted Leo + The Pharmacists if you were being serious. I can’t tell if you were kidding or not. <_<

    Marshall B

    June 6, 2008 at 3:04 pm

  4. Oh, I knew who the band was. It’s just, the guitarist that wasn’t singing looked really really like Ben Lee. So I’m not really sure if I was joking or not either.

    Jacob Z

    June 6, 2008 at 4:22 pm

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