When a 92-year-old Pete Seeger showed up at Occupy Wall Street to sing his protest classic This Little Light of Mine the effect was more calming than assaultive. As police were rampantly attacking non-combative protesters at the baseline of first-amendment rights, Seeger offered a campfire tranquilizer rather than the actual fire the movement needed. This universal peace mentality that Seeger continues serving on a silver platter is exactly what the anti-movement wants the opposition to accept. The tepid energy of folk music relegates our concerns to tide pools when we should act as tidal waves. Folk music as a genre refers to a restrictive culture when it is now actually akin to this generation's classical music: the true idioms of American Folk and Protest music in 2012 should go unclassified.
Below are the most important artists of our movement, the one that has the capacity to succeed if we abandon apathy as a relevant stance.
This is the vanguard, the fearless, assaultive, physical and pineal forefront of aggression. This is beyond the tenets of any genre, as it brings communities of traditional musicians, out-sound collaborators, and confrontation to the forefront of the zeitgeist. Melding politic with music has never sounded so concrete. Observe the inverse capital critique of Globalism in the video for Spread Eagle Cross the Block.
In a piece I wrote yesterday on what Indie labels should do in opposition to SOPA, I broke down pianist Vijay Iyer's notion of the anti-jazz, particularly the space between inclusion and exclusion through music in negotiation. Iyer succinctly evaluates the restrictive cultural confines of genre and applies that to a new narrative, on his own terms. Iyer's ability to articulate the constructs and limits of our participation is commendable, and useful for us in the belief we can set aside our differences to band together as one. He's not afraid of pulling from disparate sources for the sake of our moment, as a truly inclusive movement should.
Former Titus Andronicus guitarist, current frontwoman of DIY bashers Hilly Eye, and namesake of Amy Klein and the Blue Star Band, Klein helps embody a feminist critique that goes beyond the pit-pedestal dichotomy of Lana Del Rey and Lady Gaga. She thinks for her self, but she doesn't need absolute validation from the masses--she simply is. The fact she stepped away from Titus--where she was known somewhat regrettably as Amy Andronicus--validates her constant assertions of strength and independence. Her choice to pair her crazy fretwork with a somewhat green drummer speaks to an almost unheard of willingness to publicly accept our trials and mistakes. Watch Hilly Eye perform Double Dutch below:
Look, we need a new narrative. We have to have one. Our social order is breaking down. Why do you think they don't want us on Twitter? Because it allows us to disseminate information in a non-binary, non-hierarchal (read: anarchic) directive; the establishment, a vertically-based monolith, finds this threatening. Liturgy's Hunter Hunt-Hendrix at the least has the courage to attempt a new discourse of cultural aesthetics. His gnostic gospel, Transcendental Black Metal: A Vision of Apocalyptic Humanism was spread horizontally at least in contention in the non-hierarchal way mentioned above. Truly a man with revolutionary thoughts. Here's a video of Liturgy's High Gold:
Following the logic of a fluid narrative, if anyone has changed the discussion it is the brainchild behind these bands, Bradford Cox. His skewing of composition and gender--not to mention his blatant transparency in all related matters--speaks to an entire sub-group of the Occupy movement gone somewhat ignored: the LGBTQ struggle. Cox's fearless fusion of his politics and aesthetic marks a new embrace of individual strength. The fact the band riffed on Needle In A Camel's Eye, a track by Roxy Music's Brian Eno, on Deerhunter's standout rocker Desire Lines only reinforces the strength of collective ambiguity. Pitchfork debuted a new song from the band today.
Seattle avant-rap collective Shabazz Palaces takes the vicious street-smart mentality of the genre's past and imbues it with autonomy and heart. You can't lie to yourself. You can't lie how it felt, Palaceer Lazarro says in Are You... Can You... Were You? (Felt) the new video for which is below. He's right: only the cold, faceless multitudes denying their instinct and rationality move with the unquestioning faith of the herds. By jettisoning the busy-body antics of most in-the-game rappers, shying away from a traditional press cycle or feuds at large, Lazzaro and his Palaces project created something unique and moving on their 2011 LP Black Up.
It's incredible that Olympia, Wa. K Records stalwart Phil Elverum--of The Microphones and Mount Eerie--has had the stamina to continue his relentless touring, publishing, recording, curating and art-making for as long as he has. It's even more incredible that just about everything he produces is solid gold. But it's his politics that are most admirable, as his understanding of the polarity between the real and the imaginary might be showcased best on his 7 release of Don't Smoke/Get Off The Internet. And we're not talking about a luddite here: Elverum's understanding of organization transcends communicative boundaries, speaking to universal matters in a deeply personal way, exemplified best on The Microphones' landmark 2001 album The Glow Part 2. His notions of community and song are among the most admirable in this business. Here's Phil doing what he does best:
It's always struck me as odd that when black artists convert to Islam it goes almost without notice, as happened with rapper Mos Def at the end of 2011. Had he not changed his name to Yasiin Bey in 2012, it might have gone without comment. But Cat Stevens, a white folk singer and peace activist who converted to Islam in the late '70s, was denied entry into the US after 9/11 - ridiculous. He's stopped performing. I'm glad we have Yasiin Bey to pick up the slack of a tenable cultural touchstone for a faith that when practiced in kind is no more harmful than Christianity, despite what Lowes would have you think. His consciousness of class, without losing his relevance, is particularly sublime. This remix he dropped last week lampooning the luxury aesthetic Jay-Z and Kanye West throttled on Watch the Throne cuts to the quick. Here the track, Niggas in Poorest, below:
The So So Glos, Titus Andronicus, Ted Leo
I group these three together because of a singular moment that marked an important political distinction in the underground: the ad-hoc Occupy Wall Street benefit at Brooklyn DIY venue Shea Stadium in late Nov. 2011. The distinction broke in an essay Titus brainchild Patrick Stickles wrote in regard to the event, separating family from friends. In that vein, of course New York native agro-punkers The So So Glos got involved--three of the four of them are brothers, and all of them are not afraid to say or do exactly what they feel is necessary to their cause. The Glos never fell for the hype (unless you count childhood dalliances into big-jeaned hardcore) underlining a note of independence the underground should thrust to OWS. Add to precedent an unwavering autonomous stance taken by Ted Leo, punk/Indie forefather who's gone undervalued, largely by choice. There's integrity, history, and undeniable intellect here. Listen to The Glos' Son of an American here.
These are the benchmarks for our revolution - you can't find what I'm talking about on iTunes.