Thursday, March 10, 2005

I Offer Him Embarrassment And My Usual Excuses

Being preternaturally concerned with politics, a sizeable chunk of the music I like is rather politically engaged: I own several Billy Bragg albums, for example, and that's to say nothing of The Gang Of Four, Primal Scream in their crazy shouty leftist techno phase, The Clash, Bob Dylan, The Jam, Sonic Youth and even Godspeed You Black Emperor! It'd be fair to say I'm a sucker for a protest song. Anyway, I was noticing that some bloggers periodically make lists of things. I find making lists a bit arbitrary, which probably reflects badly on my ability to make my mind up definitively up anything at all - typical librul flipflopping - so this isn't a list in any definitive sense, just some good old-fashioned, this-machine-kills-fascists protest songs I really bloody like right now, and maybe might not like so much later.

Billy Bragg's 'Waiting For The Great Leap Forwards' - for the line giving the title of the post, and making it seem like being on the left is fairly futile, a little bit ridiculous, fun and absolutely necessary, ALL AT THE SAME TIME. If you've got a blacklist, I want to be on it.

Mos Def's 'Mathematics' - people with degrees like rappers saying "You wanna know how to rhyme, you better learn how to add". Clever, maybe wrong, but very very angry and precise with it.

The Jam's 'Smithers-Jones' - for the priceless disgust as Weller spits out the lines "It's time to relax now you've worked your arse off/ but the only one smiling is the suntanned boss/ work and work and work till you die/ Cos there's plenty more fish in the sea to fry". Take that, wage slavery!

Sonic Youth's 'Trilogy' - a three way, modernist dissection of the state of Reagan's America, all distorted, at first plaintive, guitar noise and initial eliptical references to poverty, degradation and violence, building up into a screaming rage. Genius.

Bob Dylan's 'God On Our Side' - from the first lines - "My name, it ain't nothing/ my age it means less/ the country I come from/ is called the midwest/ I was taught and brought up there/ the laws to abide/ and that the land that I live in/ has God on its side" - on, the deceptively simple yet wonderful corruscating story of someone driven to ask whether Judas Iscariot had God on his side.

I suppose the question is, what are your current favourite good old-fashioned this-machine-kills-fascists protest songs? I've deliberately restricted myself to five, or else I could go on all night, and I refrained from mentioning the same person twice, but that doesn't mean anyone else should. Also, I wonder whether the right has anything like the same tradition of genuine protest songs, as opposed to the librul baiting I understand goes on, whether it's kind of a necessarily left-wing thing to have this tradition of puncturing hypocrisies (I'm willing to admit that I might find it a little difficult to see right-wing protest songs as puncturing hypocrisies, for fairly obvious reasons, but still: baiting and puncturing are not quite the same thing).

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