These are crazy times we’re livin’ in, man. To put it lightly, we’re at a dangerous turning point in history, thanks to the actions of a reckless and unaccountable president. And to put it bluntly, we could be fucked. So we consider a plan of action. Fight back harder? Run for office, ourselves? Move to Canada? Well, the last of the three isn’t exactly the most logical idea, as it would take until the next election, most likely, to be granted citizenship. But take solace, dejected citizen, for our chilly northern neighbors are just as pissed as we are! Don’t believe me? Then maybe you should listen to the Dears’ new EP, Protest.
The name pretty much sums up the theme of this record. Though Protest isn’t necessarily about the war in Iraq, Dubya or anything so concrete, it manages to encompass the emotions and fury behind humanity’s need to question authority and stand up for what one believes in. Murray Lightburn, lead Dear and central songwriter, has taken an idea and gone nearly overboard with it, yielding a mini-operetta: a half-hour piece of music split in four parts.
Marching war drums begin opening track “Heaven Have Mercy on Us,” a suspenseful beginning to an emotionally draining work. Though only the beginning of the story, the sound of frightening background vocals, piano and a militant rumble suggest the coming of the Apocalypse. The end is at the very beginning, which puts the central theme into perspective. If there was nothing to protest against, this might all seem a little pointless.
But, thanks to the current state of volatility in the world, it’s not. A bassline borrowed from Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer” draws the listener into “Summer of Protest,” a more straightforward pop song with verses and such. Halfway through the song, police sirens sound and the track seems to veer closer and closer to chaos, before collapsing into “No Hope Before Destruction,” a decidedly mellower and hymnal track for a celebration, though whether it’s Christmas or a funeral is up for discussion. And just when you think you’re spent from the highs and lows, an extended remix of the song cycle appears in track four, closing the EP on a more abstract note, though no less an interesting one.
Canadians may not have to put up with the administration that we do down here in the States, but they seem to write a better soundtrack to a revolution. Until an American band can encapsulate the fury behind a protest movement as well as The Dears do, we’ll just have to rely on outsourcing.
The Decemberists – The Tain
Sigur Ros – ( )
Radiohead – Kid A
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.