fter attending the claustrophobic anti-Bush protest here in Buffalo and watching the huge women’s rights protest on C-Span all day, Seamus and Mitchell began reflecting upon the relative absence of real protest songs in the new
millennium. Such troubling times, it would seem, should naturally produce good dissent rock, but Gallivan could only think of his Rage Against the Machine CDs from the ‘90s, while Bonk sheepishly admits to dusting off his old Dead Kennedys records when he’s in a seditious
mood. In the interest of educating themselves and their reader, as well as helping to thwart Clear Channel in their mission (the total ideological sanitization of popular music), these two critical beat junkies have joined forces to bring you The Top Ten Bush-Hating Protest
Songs Of The New World Order That We Have Been Listening To In The Last Few Days. Listen, learn, and destroy.
10. Spearhead – Bomb the World (Armageddon Remix)
"We can chase down all our enemies/Bring them to their knees/We can bomb the world to pieces /But we can’t bomb it into peace"
First off, we’re only endorsing this specific Sly & Robbie dancehall remix of this tune—while the original has the same right-thinking message, it sort of sounds like the Partridge family or something. This here has a nice hard edge to it, which postmodern protest
music should. Anyway, the song is dangerous enough at least to get the FBI to hassle some band members’ relatives, so they’re doing something right. Michael Franti used to be in the Beatnigs and the Disposable Heroes, both seriously political (and seriously way harder and
more musically visionary than the often cliché-funky Spearhead).
A friend of ours wound up with a cool gig cooking for touring rock bands because he made friends with Spearhead while cooking at a favorite vegetarian place of theirs in SF. Now he breezes through town occasionally, on tour with Tom Petty or Red Hot Chili Peppers or
Springsteen or whoever, and regales us with stories we’d give our first-born to be able to tell. Bonk met Spearhead’s guitarist outside a show once and he was a really nice guy.
9. Steve Earle – Conspiracy Theory
"Half a million soldiers fly across the water/One in ten are never coming back again"
A lot of songs on Jerusalem qualify as political protest, but this one has a cool, snaky bassline. It’s also great to hear a country artist acknowledge the military-industrial complex and the Kennedy coup. Still, it is a modern country album, complete with naïve and
hokey production. If this is a red flag for you, you might just want to read the lyric sheet, but at least recognize that Earle is definitely not preaching to the converted. Taking an anti-war message to the country crowd is the equivalent of touring gay nightclubs with a
fundamentalist Christian synth-pop band.
8. Public Enemy – Son of a Bush
"Son of a Bush/Bringin’ kilos to fill up silos/You probably sniffed piles/Got inmates in Texas scrubbin’ tiles"
Public Enemy are now one of the oldest functioning groups in rap, and whiles they haven’t really come close to pinnacle achievements like Nation of Millions or Fear of a Black Planet in quite a while, they can still rock hard and stay on message. This track, off the
awfully-titled recent release Revolverlution, even comes complete with a repetitive siren-like noise to bring you back to the golden age of hardcore rap. The lyrics are on point and, if it weren’t for the lumbering tempo and too-prominent volume and frequency of usually
welcome jester Flavor Flav’s largely nonsensical exhortations, "Son of a Bush" might have actually beaten out obvious Chuck D wannabe Paris on this list
7. System of a Down – Temper
"We want peace without Patriot missiles/Blown to bits are civilian targets/Parade! Laugh! Rejoice! Sing! /We are the victors of...nothing"
This rare track seethes with the animus of a true Bush-hating band. Its snarling, throbbing rhythm occasionally erupting into shrieking hardcore climaxes, these surprisingly well-informed Armenian nü metal stalwarts sound like they’re ready to storm DC all by themselves.
But frontman Serj Tankian also sees a positive side to Bush’s shenanigans: "In one way, George Bush's unilateralism -- not just his administration, but his unilateralism -- has kind of unified everyone in the world that believes in peace." Wow, it’s almost…cosmic.
6. John Cougar Mellencamp – To Washington
"So a new man in the White House/With a familiar name/Said he had some fresh ideas/But it's worse now since he came/From Texas to Washington"
Yeah, we know John Mellencamp is cheesy, but it’s his very cheesiness that makes this song the most likely on our countdown to actually convert a red-state-dwelling hick to our side. Besides, this song has a nice down home Guthrie-esque feel to it, or maybe more like Jimmy
Rodgers singing "Frankie and Johnny" (sans yodeling, thankfully). Our only problem is he doesn’t really get too specific with his lyrics, but even that’s good for converting rednecks; they don’t want to hear any history lessons.
5. Paris – What Would You Do?
"’Cause America’s been took, it’s plain to see/The oldest trick in the book is MAKE an enemy"
This is the guy at the protest that you want in control of the megaphone. Just take a look at that album cover – think he’s got somethin’ to say? Paris has been droppin’ serious knowledge since he burst onto the scene with 1990’s "The Devil Made Me Do It,"
and Sonic Jihad continues to step it up. The San Francisco native takes aim at everyone in sight here, including Rudy Giuliani and John "Bin" Ashcroft. Though we’re not big on girly hooks, the verses are plenty deep and heavy enough to bury that transgression.
Some great "fun with Dubya" audio serves as an intro, and bold claims are abound within, but you gotta give it to the guy for backing up his lyrics – his website, guerrillafunk.com, contains frequently updated world news, and a "thought box" with many
prominent contributors beside himself, including Bob Fitrakis and Leonard Pitts. Don’t sweat that you’ve never heard of him, though – his in-your-face, relentless, system-bashing style will always keep him underground, and he ain’t about to change anytime soon.
4. Beastie Boys – In a World Gone Mad
"They're layin' on the syrup thick/We ain't waffles, we ain't havin' it"
If you only listened to the beat and flow of this track, you’d think it was an outtake from Paul’s Boutique. But the lyrics are fresher than the smell of deception on Dubya’s breath. The percussion-heavy old school beat gets heads bobbin’ like crazy, and the
Boys show themselves to be aging with perfection, with the swagger and clever rhymes of old combined with the worldly wisdom that began to find its form on Ill Communication.
The trio had planned for this to be released with their next album (currently under construction), but decided to drop it as soon as they polished it off due to its timely relevance – their signal that it’s "due time we fight the non-violent fight." Cherish this
moment of NYC Jews singing "Peace to Islam" – it’s all too rare.
3. Pearl Jam – Bu$hleaguer
"Drilling for fear, makes the job simple/Born on third, thinks he got a triple"
While the landscape of modern rock n’ roll has become splattered with industry darling self-loathers and smart-ass frat boys, Pearl Jam has continued to push envelopes not only in their music, but in the real world around them that so many of their peers seem to ignore.
"Bu$hleaguer" brilliantly dresses down Dubya and his cronies – but does it calmly, almost to deny them the rage they so enjoy sparking, and at the same time calling them out for their audacity.
The song was thrust into the spotlight when a couple dozen fans walked out of their Denver show last April (their first U.S. show after the Iraqi occupation) as singer Eddie Vedder beat around a Bush mask while performing it. Upon receiving scattered boos during the
performance, Vedder made clear a point that’s all too neglected these days – "we support the troops," he said. "So to the families and those people who know those folks and are related to those folks and are married to those folks, we send our support. We're
just confused on how wanting to bring them back safely all of a sudden becomes non-support."
2. Britney Spears – Toxic
"A guy like you should wear a warning/ It’s dangerous, I’m fallin’"
Known mainly for provocative dance numbers, Spears shook the foundations of the record industry with this insightful commentary on the Bush administration’s environmental policies. The rousing anthem quickly rose to the top of the charts, and MTV even had to edit out scenes
from the video that were too sensitive for its younger viewers. These scenes reportedly featured the young temptress in a see-through outfit intended to symbolically portray the president’s agenda as hollow and transparent.
Spears pulls no punches, suggesting that the president "wear a warning," and referring to his declining approval ratings in the first person. The dark arrangement of the music conveys her opposition to recent drastic moves deregulating factory-released toxic
emissions, and her warnings of America turning into a "poison paradise" have prompted a worldwide resurgence in the celebration of long-forgotten "Earth Day."
1. Zack de la Rocha and DJ Shadow – March of Death
"This Texas fuehrer/For sure a/Compassionless con who serve a/Lethal needle to the poor/The cure for crime is murder?"
Rage Against the Machine’s former mouthpiece finally resurfaces to show Audioslave what time it really is, and doesn’t even need a band to school his former fellow propagandists. The real story here is not even de la Rocha’s return to form, but DJ Shadow’s incredible
adaptability, plying his wax to full frontal rockin’ effect. This song has everything a political protest song should in the grave new world—wild-eyed invective, screaming, a technological assault to go with our maddeningly synthetic culture, and a killer beat break. It
should please fans of both artists immeasurably—it may even be better than anything either of them have done in the past, but that might be the white buffalo talking. Despite Zack’s former band’s new job in Soundgarden version 2.0, ratm.com remains a phenomenal source for
current events, including a massive protest calendar for the angry mob on call.
A lot of the songs we encountered (and mostly rejected) in our quest were clearly modeled after the sixties protest model—earnest singer, acoustic guitar, and hopeful invitations for everyone to get together in the "buy the world a coke" vein. Well-known acts like
REM and Green Day have recently posted anti-war acoustic numbers, all without any ass and without any guts. You can’t sing like Joan Baez in these times and expect anyone to listen, let alone take you seriously. Musicians who really want to inspire rebellion need to channel and
reflect the palpable disgust of their listeners; to identify and focus that disgust. As John Lydon once said in a song about apartheid, "anger is an energy," and there’s no shortage on that power source anywhere in the world today.