Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Banging Pots and Pans to Make You Understand: Songs to Oppose Fascism

So, here we are.

I was contemplating a post about a week and a half ago that, though it seemed clear that Trump was doomed, there was still a pretty big lesson to be learned in this election cycle from the lack of willingness to have discourse, and the subsequent radicalism and hardlining on all sides that a lack of discourse entailed. Of course, since then the country has let its voice be heard, and I was devastatingly misled in my faith in my fellow man, so here we are. Here we are, where a man can be endorsed by a former KKK Grand Wizard and the founder of Stormfront, a man can have a glowing writeup on the front page of the 'official' Klan newspaper, and still be elected president. We have a long four years ahead of us, and unless we learn from the lessons of this year (still that bit about an unwillingness to learn from each other) the next election will likely be even worse.

So what's a right-minded American to do? Keep each other safe, fight the best you can, and if you need a little music to make it, my friends and I have whipped up this playlist of fascist opposition from all genres of music for you to enjoy. We're all in this together, so let's do what we can.

"We are far more united...than things that divide us." - Jo Cox

First up, here's the YouTube link to the playlist proper, if you want to listen to it without interruption.

Dead Kennedys - Nazi Punks Fuck Off!
Nowhere else to start, really, is there? 'Overproduced' by a phantom Martin Hannet, a blast of righteous indignation. A great way to start the day.

Heaven 17 - (We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thing
And now for something completely different, to just show that at the time, even the most clear commercial bait single could be politically charged. Like a cleaner-scrubbed New Order, so stereotypically endemic of the '80s, undeniably catchy and with a great message.

XTC - No Thugs in Our House
Maybe it's a guilty pleasure, but I have a great love for XTC. Along with Game Theory, they really brought the sound of the '60s that I loved into the '80s, and deep within the time of the twin terrors of Reagan and Thatcher, XTC gave us this song, pointing out how our own blood can be tainted by the forces of oppression, how seductive regressive thinking could be.

Crass - Bloody Revolutions
"How can you leave out the grandparents of antifascist punk Crass? Bloody Revolutions is such a fantastic song, not only for its bizarre medley composition but for its razor-sharp analysis critiquing both organized fascism AND the armchair communists who blithely supported similarly oppressive regimes, the only difference being the people in power." 
- Matt Kellegrew

Linton Kwesi Johnson - Fite Dem Back
I think Andrei, who I started A Screaming Comes Across the Sky with, was the one that introduced me to LKJ, but at the time I didn't recognize the pure political fire couched in those slow, dubby reggae lines. This is a song for the radical, the ones who are out there now blocking streets and putting themselves at risk while I sit safely here at home typing on my computer.

The Dicks - Bourgeois Fascist Pig
"The Dicks are just awesome old weird Texas punk. Now, I usually hate most Texas punk because it's usually so purposely offensive for the sake of being offensive, which for me just gets old after a song or two. So yeah, a song about killing kids and murdering folks with a knife probably wouldn't work for me under normal circumstances...but I don't think these are normal circumstances anymore..." 
- Jim Snyder

Serge Gainsbourg - Nazi Rock
Gainsbourg's Rock Around the Bunker is just such a gloriously deranged album, a record from 1975 which married goofy, '50s big-band arrangements to tales of Gainsbourg's time as a Jewish boy in France during the Nazi occupation. Gainsbourg's modus operandi in this one, and in most of his work, is ridiculous, over-the-top lampooning, and it's beautiful to hear how little respect he gives his oppressors in this song, in this arrangement. You can imagine the stage show, with can-can girls in SS uniforms doing kicks behind Serge, the Eternal Pervert grinning drunkenly in a disheveled suit. Glorious.

The Cranberries - Zombie
"I'm an Irish girl, so I chose an Irish song. The Cranberries sing about the 1916 Easter rising against the Brits. A song for Republicanism." 
- Amanda Lauer

Charlie Haden - El Quinto Regimento/Los Cuatero Generales/Viva la Quince Brigada
The inspiration for this exercise. Haden in '68 leading an incredible jazz band through a trio of Spanish folk songs turned patriotic and pro-Republican when Franco was crushing democracy during the Spanish Civil War of the '30s. Haden wanted the songs to resonate with listeners weary of Vietnam, but this piece transcends time, and is just as essential today as it was in the '60s, or the '30s.

The (International) Noise Conspiracy - Smash it Up
"The (International) Noise Conspiracy's "Smash it Up" is dated not only in its French Situationist politics, but its jangly '90s guitar sound. The fun of it is in the clash of militancy and pop music reminiscent of anarchist-turned-sports-anthem purveyors Chumbawumba." 
- Matt Kellegrew

The (English) Beat - Two Swords
I have a deep, irrational love of ska; it's so much fun and such a pleasure to listen to, and The Beat is one of the greats. "Two Swords" is another song warning against hardline attitudes on both sides, with the wonderful chorus of "Even though that cunt's a Nazi". Be like The Beat.

Rush - Freewill
"I like this song for the idea that while we can go through life thinking that things get done to us, we can still take the view that we guide our own lives, make our own choices, and seek the good in ourselves and in others." 
- John Amico

Cornelius Cardew - The Spirit of Cable Street
Carnelius Cardew might be the most unknown artist on this list, a composer who went full-tilt on heavily orchestrated, politically-charged 'pop music' like this one, a pean to the rioters who clashed with Oswald Mosley's reprehensible British Union of Fascists back in 1936. Musically, there are a few phrases that remind me of Frank Zappa, someone else I probably should have put in this playlist.

Woody Guthrie - All You Fascists Bound to Lose
"Woody Guthrie emblazoned his guitar with the slogan 'this machine kills fascists'. He wrote songs that he believed did not belong to him, but instead to everyone. "All You Fascists Bound to Lose" is a public anthem. The machine of the guitar kills fascism beyond the literal, attacking it instead at its ideological root." 
- Matt Kellegrew

Charles Mingus - Fables of Faubus
Like Serge Gainsbourg, Charles Mingus engages with his foe of choice, Arkansas governor Orval Faubus, by refusing to take him seriously. "Fables of Faubus" is goofy, almost cartoonish, painting the governor who opposed desegregation in Little Rock in the '50s as a bumbling buffoon. I included the lyrical version, since the lyrics are so biting and sharp, but the original instrumental from Mingus Ah Um is actually the song I'm more familiar with, having grown up with that record. Either one gets the point across swimmingly.

Sonic Youth - Youth Against Fascism
"On the grungy, bass-riff-driven second single off Sonic Youth's Dirty, prescient and profane lyrics fly off like metal shavings. It rocks, it's groovy, and it's straight to the fuckin' point. Brings ya back to the early '902, when a major label tried to sell the band, defined by their noise and discord, as MTV-friendly to a confounded America. Crazy times. Thank god we live in a saner era now, right?" 
- Dan Callahan

Jucifer - Королева - оленьи рожки Queen of Antlers
Grungy, gross, absolutely throat-shredding metal from the king and queen of political/historical metal, Jucifer. This one is about the female Russian soldiers during World War II in general and the Battle of Stalingrad in particular, who were trapped between the twin tyrants of Stalin and Hitler and had to defend their homes from the brutality of fascism. 

Frederic Rzewski - The People United Will Never be Defeated!
And we come now to the end, Frederic Rzewski's theme and variations of "¡El pueblo unido jamás será vencido!", a Chilean worker's unity song from 1973. By giving the piece the Goldberg treatment, Frederic opens up its message to encompass everything about resistance...everyone who listens will find a variation that resonates with them. The piece is romantic, aching, beautiful, and above all united, a show of force through solidarity that we could all take to heart in the coming years.