This week i’ve been thinking about protest songs. After the Guardian posted that story saying lo-fi American blog indie rock was slacker, lazy, nostalgic and lacking in any political context, I asked myself three questions.
a) is it true? b) if yes, why? c) does it matter?
What I think is that yes, people are less politically active and less fired up than they were in all times past, with the exception of the 1950s maybe, musicians included. There are many reasons why this is true, but i’m not going to get into that.
What bothered me most about the Guardian article was the simplistic way in which the writer, Ben Beaumont-Thomas, talked about so-called protest music. Not only does he take on a tone of frivolity right up front, by arguing that the artists in question have band names that evoke the pastoral, which thus inherently means they are superficial, but he also makes no differentiation between the sound of a protest song, and the lyrics.
Punk rock can sound anti-corporate, or anti-government just because of the musical style- but the lyrics could very well be about a crush.
I love Mountain Man so don’t take this the wrong way, but Beaumont-Thomas says there’s a shred of hope in the band because their style is in contrast to lo-fi, but they sing all about nature. And Beaumont-Thomas’ other band that could be a flicker of light? Pearl Harbor, again, only because of the band name. I’m sorry but that’s just lazy.
I think rock and roll does have a place in political activism. And I think artists can make a huge difference if they become politically active and use their music toward that end. But just because there is a trend toward inward focused music doesn’t mean protest music is missing. It’s being fostered underneath the surface, perhaps.
I made a mix of what I deem protest songs. Some are outright political, like Jimi Hendrix’s “Machine Gun.” Others aren’t, like Elliott Smith’s cover of the traditional “Moonshiner.” Some songs sound like political songs, like Einstürzende Neubauten‘s “Zuckendes Fleisch.” This mix isn’t really in any order, it’s just a great list of songs.
Tell me what you think. What are some of your favorite protest songs?
Track ListingBorn 2 B Fly – The Fly Girlz One Beat – Sleater Kinney Touch of Grey – The Grateful Dead
Machine Gun – Jimi Hendrix Zuckendes Fleisch – Einstürzende Neubauten Something Vague – Bright Eyes A Mania – Jackie O Motherfucker Dirt – The Shiftless Rounders State Trooper – Bruce Springsteen NYC- Gone, Gone – Conor Oberst T-Electronique – Faust Vs. Dalek Hole In One – Desaparecidos Not So Far – JP05 Song to Woody – Bob Dylan Moonshiner – Elliott Smith Wasn’t Born to Follow – The Byrds Equitorial – Cow’s Lips