Naked Raygun, "Rat Patrol" (Homestead).
Tocotronic, "Alles Was Ich Will, Ist Nichts Mit Euch Zu Tun Haben" (Lado/Motor/Rough Trade/PV).
Sweet Cobra, "Leviathan" (Seventh Rule).
Com.a, "Air Scratch Battle" (Tigerbeat6).
Buttersprites, "Love Call" (Dionysus).
Daniel Ágúst, "If You Leave Me Now" (One Little Indian).
Epo-555, "Dakota" (Crunchy Frog).
Persil, "New Zong" (Transformed Dreams).
Pedro, "Chapel Was My Dream" (Melodic).
Meanwhile, Back in Communist Russia, "Blindspot/Invisible Bend" (Jitter).
Andrew Broder ft. Ultramagnetic MCs, "Poppa Large" (www.fogtimewaster.com).
The Mitchells, "Vault Alarms" (Pigeon/Small Batch).
Hockey Island, "Everything Twice" (www.hockeyislandsings.com).
Groovski, "Currently Women" (members.cox.net/~groovski01).
13 & God, "Men of Station" (Anticon).
Rapoon, "Via" (Caciocavallo).
Chin Up Chin Up, "Pillage the Village" (Flameshovel/Record Label).
Alias, "Sixes Last" (Anticon).
Why?, "Sand Dollars" (Anticon).
The Bomarr Monk, "Meat Dance" (Anticon).
F.S. Blumm, "120 Mandolinen" (Tomlab).
The Names, "Calcutta" (LTM).
Wilderness, "End of Freedom" (Jagjaguwar).
As I write this it's Thanksgiving, and the radio has been playing Arlo Guthrie's timeless protest anthem, "Alice's Restaurant" ("If you want to end war and stuff, you got to sing loud . . . "). I've read stories about music getting soldiers through the war in Iraq: impromptu freestyle battles outside tents venting frustration and loneliness, AC/DC and Metallica blaring from tanks. It makes sense that "Shot Down in Flames" would prime someone for the battlefield, but what does an antiwar song sound like nowadays?
Arlo Guthrie's tale is charmingly anachronistic, better suited for warming baby boomers' nostalgic hackles than killing fascists. (My dad dodged the draft by showing up to his physical in panties and raising his blood pressure to hypertensive levels beforehand with a bottle of soy sauce.) Two years ago, on his 80th birthday, New Rorem opined, "I don't think there's such a thing as 'political music.' There are marches that are meant to accompany people marching off to war. If I were to write a political song, it would be something that would cause people to march away from war."
I also recall William Burroughs' "Thanksgiving Prayer": "Thanks for the American dream, to vulgarize and to falsify until the bare lies shine through." Burroughs also famously said that a paranoiac is one who has all the facts at his disposal. I miss the days when this was just a witticism. But the current administration's half-veiled tactics not only justify paranoia but trade on it. How will Americans ever listen to the president again after Watergate? Just keep everybody guessing.
Maybe it's out of paranoia that all cultural detritus around me seems to point toward war and politicking. The mix begins with a post-Reagan call to arms (ironic, we hope) and ends with the essential conundrum of a country where you give up freedoms in order to be more free. Hobbes had a word for it; Sweet Cobra strike that word like a bell, and the sound that escapes is its soul. 13 & God know that cultural arbitration is the loneliest job in the world. Hockey Island appeal to a military shrink, who counters, "My job is not to save lives." It's too late to Rock the Vote. But there are plenty of meditative moments herein; find one and imagine Rocking the Coup. As Burroughs concluded his "Prayer": "Show us your arms!"
J. Niimi is the author of Murmur (Continuum, $9.95). He lives in Chicago.