I recently read an editorial column on a music Web site that expressed surprise at the fact that few political and protest songs were being made right now. It was a sentiment that I was wondering about myself. Considering the present circumstances of the world, one would think that artists would have more than enough to write about and against. And I'm not talking about the shallow "politics" of American Idiot. While the '60's saw numerous protests and demonstrations for civil rights and anti-war statements, there just doesn't seem to be enough protest coming from anywhere these days. No one's calling for impeaching an American president who is also a war criminal. No one's kicking up enough fuss about anything political. The biggest kerfuffle was created by a band like the Dixie Chicks, and that ultimately went nowhere. Why are most artists remaining so silent? Why aren't more musicians challenging their audiences anymore?
"Can anyone make a difference anymore? Can anyone write a protest song?" - Let Robeson Sing, Manic Street Preachers
Even those I would depend on for some sort of political commentary have backed off. Disappointingly, the two truly political songs off the latest Manics album, Imperial Bodybags and Rendition, weren't released as singles. I continue to hope that there will be far more political songs on their next album, but they very likely won't be singles either. The Manics, who used to be so outspoken about the state of world affairs, and who used to court disfavour with their critics and the mass public, have retreated behind anthems of nostalgia. There's such a gap in the music world right now for intelligent political commentary. Are musicians suffering from the same ostensible feelings of apathy and impotence that the rest of the population are?
If you stop and think about it, a lot of the world's problems could be solved if we just got rid of oil and the need for it - alternatives to fossil fuels are possible, but no one is willing to challenge the big oil companies and their backers or sacrifice any of their own comfort. The war in the Middle East could stop and the environment could be saved. But people are too comfortable, too complacent, to bother thinking about it. Instead, they would like to put more smiley-face band-aids on a gaping wound by holding Earth Days or Live 8's. Feel warm and fuzzy for one day to absolve yourself of forgetting about the problem every other day. Or maybe it's just a fundamental human flaw to build a wall against reality to defend our sanity so that we only face a problem once it's gotten so bad it can't be ignored.
A few of the songs on this mix are directly addressing the current state of affairs: Neil Young's brazen call to impeach President Bush; Billy Bragg's exposure of the War in Iraq's true motives; Bright Eyes' brilliant attack on the President's hypocrisy; Bloc Party's slightly more subtle and veiled commentary about Bush; Arcade Fire's song of the current American climate of fundamentalism and fear. And then there are songs that are more generally about politics and the ills of capitalism. I'm going to call this mix Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say.
Let's Impeach the President - Neil Young
Price of Oil - Billy Bragg
When the President Talks to God - Bright Eyes
Stop, Hey, What's That's Sound - Buffalo Springfield
Spanish Bombs - The Clash
Helicopter - Bloc Party
Guns Before Butter - Gang of Four
The Prole Song - Snog
...And We Thought Nation-States Were a Bad Idea - Propagandhi
Ifwhiteamericatoldthetruthforonedayitsworldwouldfallapart - Manic Street Preachers
Last Day of the Miners' Strike - Pulp
You've Only Got Yourself to Blame - Stroszek
Intervention - The Arcade Fire
Write to Your MP Today - McCarthy
Margaret on the Guillotine - Morrissey
War on Want - Johnny Boy
Celebration Guns - Stars
Shenandoah - Paul Robeson
Weekly Mix #10 (Megaupload)