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“Dolby’s Top 10 Anti-War Songs from the 2000’s”

Guess who’s coming to dinner? Violence and calamity. We don’t know who it was, or where it came from, or what it was, all we know is that if we live, we’re gonna mow down everything in our path with the biggest damn guns and tanks we can find.

Whether it’s Taylor Swift, Big Sean or a million disillusioned young Muslims connecting on facebook on the sole common ground of seething rage, these times we live in seem to denote bloodlust and ruthlessness. “What’s society built on?” asked Stereolab on Emperor Tomato Ketchup. “It’s built on blood / Built on blood / Built on blood.”
So is it unavoidable, do any of these artists even have a point? Well, have we ever even TRIED peace, like maybe John Lennon wanted to do, before someone gave him a lethal taste of the leaden opposite?
It’s no doubt that the defense rhetoric for this current ISIS epidemic is far different from that regarding the Iraq war — no one would ever call a strike against the former “preventive,” and truly, these young kamikaze terrorists don’t wield a terribly grand value for life. So as one page of human history turns into another, we may find ourselves as the good guys, or the bad guys, but in order to understand the whole, you have to understand each.
I remember being a conscious, but basically chickensh** college freshman in 2003, afraid to drop out and go protest the war, afraid to really do anything, thinking I could do good in my shoes, where I trod routinely. Oh, the ego of young adults. In times of patriotic dissent, theory goes out the window, even music theory, and everything boils down to conflict efficacy — getting things done. In 2004, it surfaced with 90% of Washington D.C. voting to oust George W. Bush, but the incumbent prevailing per the system of the electoral college, which gives an advantage to small, rural states, which often rely on corporately sponsored avenues like FOX News for their inner mental discourse. Since that war, many Kurds have fled Iraq favoring overcrowded Syria, and a civil war has exploded there partly logistical, and partly semantic, the result of general Islamic noxiousness. The Talking Heads once said that “The future lies in someone’s eyes,” but I think that clearly, in the case of ISIS, the past is written all across their faces.

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10 R.E.M. – “Mr. Richards”

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This cut taken from 2007’s Accelerate most pointedly demarcates the already dated aspects of these songs, mainly because the band actually evolved and got better for their very, very, last album, Collapse into Now.

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9 Beastie Boys – “It Takes Time to Build”

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To cater to things musically here, the Beasties were at their best on To the 5 Boroughs when they were being positive, whether it was frenetic goofiness on opener “Ch-Check it out” or anthemic mourning for their hometown on “An Open Letter to NYC.”

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8 The Roots – “Somebody’s Gotta Do it”

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This album was dissed a lot critically, The Tipping Point, and I don’t really get why — it was the perfect light, approachable followup to the virulent beast Phrenology, and turned out a mere 17 or so months after, to boot. That was back when our record store actually sold the albums they advertised up on their marker board, and I remember my eyes practically bugging out when I saw it in ’04: A NEW ROOTS ALBUM? What is Questlove SNORTIN’!

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7 Living Things – “Bomb Bomb Bomb”

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Again, we love the sentiment with this band, even if it is blatantly ripping off the intro to the Rolling Stones’ “Brown Sugar.” The lyrics to this song don’t actually take argumentative shape, they just paint a canvas of what was going on in displaced first person: “I can’t drink or drive a tank at 19 / So I set off to join the US army / The first time I left my country / I felt the desert sand marchin’ under my feet.”

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6 Anti-Flag – “Turncoat”

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Give Anti-Flag for probably taking the most virile, direct approach at Bush-bashing, not least for their ability unlike Pearl Jam to actually write good songs about what was going on in the ’00’s. The first three songs from 2004’s The Terror State are a blitzkrieg trifecta from this Pittsburgh band.

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5 Green Day – “Holiday”

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Again, dated city, because this band, too, got better for their cumulative Uno/Dos/Tre work of late (“Oh Love,” “Wild One,” “The Forgotten”), but we love the lyrics in this one: “Bang bang goes the broken glass / And kill all the f**s that don’t agree!” Yup, I’d say they hit the nail on the head, and in tripleted “stomp” form, to make it even better.

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4 Sleater-Kinney – “Combat Rock”

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Sleater-Kinney must have just seen the future in their artistic minds, or gotten some inside information, for this song certainly seems geared toward Operation Shock and Awe, but surfaced in 2002, a year before the skirmish began. What steals the show is Corin Tucker’s vindicating and unwieldy pipes, over a title stolen from The Clash and general lyricism, still with sheen and clout.

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3 My Morning Jacket – “Gideon”

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My Morning Jacket is probably the most vivid case of wanting to keep things low-key, out of understandable public fear: “You’ve got to want to rearrange it / Keep it off the record / Off the record”… and this song is even metaphorical, not direct, boasting nevertheless lines like “Most of us believe that this is wrong” and allusions to a self-appointed religious authority, to the point where most people get a pretty good drift of what the song’s about.

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2 John Prine – “Some Humans Ain’t Human”

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John Prine’s 2005 album Fair & Square was full of references to everything, from romances (fallen or steady), to depleted civics and livelihood, to pastoral scenes from his life, but he was undoubtedly at his best when he was attacking Bush: “Or you’re feelin’ your freedom and the world’s off your back / And some cowboy from Texas starts his own war in Iraq.”

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1 The Decemberists – “When the War Came”

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I call this one the best for several reasons, one being what I find to be Colin Meloy’s inner understood fusion of a couple things: one, we’re probably not going to actually CHANGE the world with any of these songs, yet these atrocities are dominating our psyches and lives nonetheless, and two, every event in life allows for many, many different ways of viewing it, even if it is a barbaric and mindless one like a war, which ends up being depicted by a repetitive and brutal guitar pattern, in a lurid, march-like rhythm. Meloy’s rich voice just obviates the dark rhapsody, and like Fair & Square, The Crane Wife covers the whole gamut of human functions, though usually more metaphoric and literary, leaving melody sovereign, and arms and minds open.

 

 

 

 

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