Hopeful Music
November 6, 2004 1:47 PM   Subscribe

We're more polarized politically than at any time since the Vietnam war. So why can't I find beautiful, intellectual music that reflects our anger and hope? In other words, who are the Marvin Gaye, Phil Ochs, and Joan Baez of our generation?
posted by PrinceValium to Media & Arts (35 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Billy Bragg, Michael Stipe, Bono, Bruce Springsteen, etc.
posted by nathan_teske at 1:54 PM on November 6, 2004

Hey, you forgot about Bryan Adams!
posted by shepd at 2:00 PM on November 6, 2004

6 million angry bands playing in basements around the world.
posted by cmonkey at 2:00 PM on November 6, 2004

Response by poster: Umm.. no offense guys, but is there anyone who didn't peak 20 years ago?
posted by PrinceValium at 2:08 PM on November 6, 2004

Well, I guess if the angry punk rock playing in basements around the world isn't your thing, maybe Michael Franti or The Coup fit the bill?
posted by cmonkey at 2:21 PM on November 6, 2004

Eminem, The Roots, etc. I've heard several rap songs mention the war in Iraq and Eminem's "Mosh" is a pretty big jab. Anti-establishment is no longer coming from rock. In my opinion rock is being superceded by hip-hop. It's like 20 years ago wondering why no one has peaked in the big band genre.
posted by geoff. at 2:22 PM on November 6, 2004

Michael Franti, Rage Against the Machine [before the breakup] Ani Difranco, Chumbawumba, Fugazi, Manic Street Preachers, Propagandhi, Radiohead, Bruce Cockburn... Lots of hip-hop artists like KRS One, Ice-T, Public Enemy, Mos Def, even Eminem. In Seattle there are a lot of good local musicians that have good political messages in more of a folksy vein like the people you mentioned: Robert Blake, Casey Neill, Jim Page
posted by jessamyn at 2:33 PM on November 6, 2004

...Steve Earle, Sage Francis...
posted by dhoyt at 3:13 PM on November 6, 2004

Ani DiFranco, although her newer output is only OK.
posted by blueshammer at 3:17 PM on November 6, 2004

Audioslave (three-quarters of Rage Against the Machine plus Soundgarden's Chris Cornell)--listen to their Axis of Justice CD for some high-energy political music . Eric Schwartz. Toshi Reagon. Moby. Sam Bayer. Dan Hart (unfortunately, he doesn't have the lyrics for his brilliant "Marry Me, Jerry Falwell" up yet. The Yohimbe Brothers.

Etc., etc., etc. Get out there on the web and look for stuff. Oddly enough, people who are at the beginning of a career in political music tend not to be marketed aggressively by giant international corporations.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:21 PM on November 6, 2004

I have no idea how I forgot Le Tigre, Green Day, Slipknot, Death Cab for Cutie (and the side project The Postal Service), Modest Mouse...
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:35 PM on November 6, 2004

Umm.. no offense guys, but is there anyone who didn't peak 20 years ago?
Dude, you listened to Bruce Springsteen's The Rising album? I think it is one of his best, if not his best work ever.
posted by jmd82 at 3:55 PM on November 6, 2004

the metric put out the fantastic semi-political album "Old World Underground" in 2003.

it's not anything you're gonna sing with sixty other hippies, but it's easily in my top five favorite albums of the moment.
posted by fishfucker at 5:36 PM on November 6, 2004

Dan Bern, Ani Difranco
posted by th3ph17 at 5:38 PM on November 6, 2004

Propaghandi is okay, too.
posted by scarabic at 6:05 PM on November 6, 2004

Could you clarify: are you looking only for good political songwriters or are you asking who we think are the best songwriters of today who write contemplative tunes? I like many of the artists already listed (and hate a number of them as well), but many of them I think of only as political songwriters and, not that that's a bad thing, I find their music only digestible in small doses. Some of the artists listed (no offense intended, folks) reak to me of posturing (RaTM, Ice T, U2, Moby) to such an extent that they're laughable.

Not everything Ochs, Baez, and Gaye wrote was political.
posted by dobbs at 6:53 PM on November 6, 2004

Dan Bern, love love love the guy. Check out the new EP My Country II. Think moder Bob Dylan

There are people, maybe even you
Who think opinion polls equals democracy
'Round here the grownups talk of should or should we not
Meanwhile the kids, they know we're going to war

And Propaghandi - haven't released an album in a while - but are amazing. Their record label - G7 Welcoming Committee - releases lots of like minded lefty bands (and lots of great spoken word CD's by such heavyweights as Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn)

On preview: Some of the artists listed (no offense intended, folks) reak to me of posturing (RaTM, Ice T, U2, Moby) to such an extent that they're laughable.

I couldn't agree with this statement more.
posted by Quartermass at 7:12 PM on November 6, 2004

a lot of this is over now, but stuff like le tigre/bikini kill/julie ruin/kathleen hanna, the need, heavens to betsey/sleater-kinney, the butchies, bratmobile, and team dresch comes to mind. if you're going to base it on music, my favorites of those are le tigre, sleater-kinney, and team dresch.

and then there's that bizarre indie category of politically minded collectives that play instrumental, at-first-glance-apolitical music. godspeed you black emperor comes to mind primarily...

and as mentioned above, most on-the-button politically charged music seems to come from rap.

and also mentioned above, ani difranco comes to mind as the easy way out...but one can only listen to so much of her output before getting tired of how the message that freedom or human rights or social justice is great is superceded by the prevailing message, over and over and over again, that ani herself is great. that said, out of range and puddle dive are still probably worth listening to today... i didn't mind the utah phillips collaboration either, but then, that was years ago and i'm a bit fuzzy.

and hey, i say, listen to phil ochs some more. i remain enthralled, but then i'm fairly young so his work still feels fresh to me.
posted by ifjuly at 9:43 PM on November 6, 2004

and not to sidetrack too much, but you know it's funny, looking at that list i just realized how splintered it is. there is no unified sense of calling together the nation or encapulsating the way "we americans" feel--the collective anger and hope you're talking about. this leads me to wonder if it's true what they say about identity politics (the music breaks down somewhat into those interested in gender vs those interested in race relations versus though interested in class relations...) getting in the way, heh.
posted by ifjuly at 9:48 PM on November 6, 2004

Big second on Godspeed You Black Emporer! (exclamation point is part of their name, not a reflection of my enthusiasm, as that would be: Godspeed You Black Emporer!!!!).
posted by red cell at 10:40 PM on November 6, 2004

Camper van Beethoven's new album is about Us becoming Them. Parts of it are also very beautiful.
posted by interrobang at 10:41 PM on November 6, 2004

Red Cell, you're showing your lack of hip. They've moved the !. It's now: Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Some MP3s here.
posted by dobbs at 10:50 PM on November 6, 2004

posted by ursus_comiter at 11:18 PM on November 6, 2004

*hangs head in shame*

posted by red cell at 11:25 PM on November 6, 2004

[snip unproductive comments re: GY!BE.]

Phil Kline's album Zippo Songs is overtly political, but with the exception of the absolutely transcendent "The Funeral of Jan Palach" it's not very good.
posted by kenko at 11:51 PM on November 6, 2004

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that there are no really good recent protest songs out there, for two reasons: in the first place, good protest/political songs are very hard to write. The reason for this is that *any* didactic song is extremely difficult to write (this is also may be why 98% of Christian pop is crap).

The other reason is that popular music as a medium is less where we put politcal discussion. We've now had 5 decades for TV to soak up discourse into itself, 7-8 for radio and film, and one decade of the Internet. In the 60's, TV was still new, radio and TV were even new-ish. A lot more cultural transmission probably went on via song than does now.

But lest we forget, Toby Keith and Daryl Worley had some political songs that got everybody riled up....
posted by weston at 12:36 AM on November 7, 2004

Have a listen to the Future Soundtrack for America, esp the Mike Doughty and Sleater-Kinney tracks. Also check out this previous music-in-politics axeme thread.
posted by roboto at 4:23 AM on November 7, 2004

The new Bad Religion CD is stellar. Yeah, it's punk but with some really beautiful harmonies and touching lyrics. I'm especially fond of Let Them Eat War.

(Come to think of it they were the last band I saw before the election...sigh...)
posted by JoanArkham at 6:56 AM on November 7, 2004 [1 favorite]

Definitely Steve Earle. His most recent album has more than enough to prove weston wrong.
posted by transient at 8:16 AM on November 7, 2004

Let me expand on that: I think Steve Earle's songs are great because he's not very didactic. He writes songs less about "politics" per se than about people affected by politics.
posted by transient at 8:21 AM on November 7, 2004

Remember that the mass-market pop music world and the world of insightful protest music are pretty much orthogonal to each other.

In 1963, the year that "The Free-Wheelin' Bob Dylan" launched "Blowin' in the Wind" as a single, the singles that beat it on the charts included "Surf City" by Jan and Dean, "It's My Party", by Lesley Gore, "My Boyfriend's Back" by the Angels, "Louie, Louie" by the Kingsmen, and "Surfin' USA" by the Beach Boys.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:28 AM on November 7, 2004

I have to say it: Fugazi
posted by trbrts at 11:54 AM on November 7, 2004

red cell, don't feel bad: it's actually "A silver mount zion" now - GY!BE has broken up. "A silver mount zion" is the group with the most former Godspeed members, i believe.

dobbs: ;).
posted by louigi at 7:43 PM on November 7, 2004

no more blood for oil,
we got our own battles to fight on our own soil,
no more psychological warfare to trick us to thinking we ain't loyal,
if we don't serve our own country we're patronizing a hero,
look in his eyes its all lies,
the stars and stripes have been swiped washed out and wiped,
and replaced with his own face,
mosh now or die,
if I get sniped tonight you'll know why,
cause I told you to fight.

posted by specialk420 at 12:24 AM on November 8, 2004

louigi is out of the hip. it's The Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra and Tra-la-la Band Thee Silver Mountain Reveries now...
posted by mr.marx at 4:20 PM on November 8, 2004

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