Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Shut Up and Sing

Our little project had a brief moment of viral explosion on Monday thanks to the Milwaukee Record blurb (thanks guys!), and most of what i saw online was overwhelmingly positive--lots of "finally!" and "I wish i was a part of this!" and the like. It felt like a nerve was struck inside people who were concerned that music and art in Wisconsin had become resigned to our state's fate: a once-great progressive bastion of open government sold piecemeal to cronies and special interests. We were immediately approached by several people asking "how can i help?" and rest assured--we'll find ways for you all to do just that!

Of course, when any artist tries in the slightest way to make a difference with their talents, the naysayers come with the snicker-fests. One friend of mine posted a link to the Record piece to a Wisconsin musicians group on Facebook and was immediately hit with "don't post political stuff here!" A few comments sneering about the success of Bands Against Bush and the like popped up here and there, because of course they did. (This is nothing new for me--when IfIHadAHiFi released "Imperial Walker," we were almost instantly greeted by this sarcastic take on our tune over at the National Review, which still stands as one of the greatest accomplishments in the history of our band.)

"Shut up and sing!" is the chorus often chanted by boring, conservative schlubs who prefer their music as mindless entertainment, art as something pretty to look at rather than an engaging brain exercise, movies as a way to shut off the brain after a day at work. And there's nothing wrong with dumb, brainless media (i'm as much a fan of Turbonegro as i am The Ex), but here's the thing--just choosing to play music, draw a picture, edit a video--these are inherently political acts, whether you recognize them as such or not. To choose to make art rather than simply consume it is a powerful choice to be active rather than passive (and to be clear, both choices are valid). 

And whether it's pure entertainment or more ambitious "art," music is full of thought-provoking political action. I mean, i know i don't have to say this to anyone searching out this blog on purpose, but it's so strange to think that anyone in a group of Wisconsin musicians would say "leave politics out of my music!" Whether John Lennon's asking us to give peace a chance or Jello Biafra's plotting to lynch his landlord, politics are everywhere in music. Hell, Elvis shaking his shit on live TV was a political act that pushed society forward (contrary to the consternation of concerned parents everywhere). Hell, those goofy dumb dumbs in Turbonegro pushed social and political buttons by working a gay gimmick in the dangerously-macho Scandinavian metal scene (although, given their early tendency to misguidedly wear blackface as a button-pushing challenge to racist attitudes in their homeland, arguments could be made about the motivations for their other gimmicks, but hey, the best art causes discussion, right? Anyway, i'm digressing). 

Bottom line--most people who gripe about politics in music are griping because they don't happen to agree with the politics. So, yeah, if you're a fan of ol' Governor Scotty, you're likely to think we should stick to songs about, i dunno, relationships and parties and good times or whatever. Well, as my pal Jilly from We Are Hex once sang, "I never wrote a love song and i won't start soon." ...What's that? A female singer giving love songs a kiss-off? Sounds like an act of rebellion to me. Sheesh, she should just shut up and sing, right?

(That photo above of the band on the Wisconsin capitol steps, by the way, is of Madison band United Sons of Toil, of which UNINTIMIDATED band Tyranny is Tyranny's Russell Emerson Hall was a member, and to this day, i'm super jealous they got to play the Capitol during the 2011 protests. Just, damn.)

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