Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Randy Smith selects his favourite protest songs from 2000 onwards (part 4)


  Rebel Time Records' Randy Smith selects another of his favourite recent political/protest songs... 

  THE FALLOUT - Talkin' Punk Rock Civil War

  The first time I saw The Fallout was at the release show for their 2004 CD "Turning Money Into Revolution." I was wearing an F.U.s t-shirt that featured a picture of Ronald Reagan holding a pistol, Clint Eastwood style. The F.U.s had courted a bit of controversy, via MRR, for their supposed patriotic lyrics. Personally, I viewed the lyrics as sarcastic, and, having had the band (in their Straw Dogs incarnation) stay at my place a couple of times and chatting about it all only served to confirm that.

  Anyways, I have a distinct memory of two members of the band eyeballing me and the shirt and laughing with each other. A little unnerving ... were they laughing at me or with me? Were they laughing at the shirt or at my expense? I still don't know. But, I'm very proud to have been able to work with ( and have some laughs with ) The Fallout over the past few years, having had a hand in releases on both Insurgence Records and Rebel Time Records.

  One reviewer noted: "These guys write catchy songs that are tailor made for you to shout along with. The music is powerful and aggressive but also fun to listen to. And that’s the way it ought to be. If a song is going to inspire people, it has to be inspiring. Songs like “Red Light Union” and “Raise Your Flag” will have you fired up to run through a brick wall for the cause! This is “street” punk in the truest sense of the term – music for the people that is relevant to what’s actually happening on our streets." From another reviwer: "The Fallout make you wanna get up, dance and then go and do nasty but well-deserved things to animal abusers / fascists / cops while happily humming one of their delightful ditties." For me personally, like Moral Crux, pretty much a perfect band.

  An important song for me personally and a song I come back to often. It serves somewhat as a 'daily affirmation - a 'positive reminder or statement that can be used to encourage and motivate yourself / myself.' I'm basically 60, and for 40 years my life has revolved, in great part, around punk rock, politics and 'action,' in its various forms. I'm getting old, I'm getting tired, my knees are shot, I'm getting really grumpy and at times its tempting to say 'fuck it' and go sit on the porch and rest on my laurels, spending my time looking back in introspection (or anger) remembering the good old days. But, songs like this ( and other songs on this album such as "Action Today" and "Another Way" ) put a little 'pep in my step'. I may not make it out to a lot of demos or actions these days, but, yep, goldarnit, there are still new and inspiring bands and songs that need to be heard, via Rebel Time Records and there is still a diaper load of old (and hopefully still inspirational) political documentation and history that needs to be preserved, scanned and uploaded via the Arm The Spirit and Dragonfly archives. The fact that I can do this work whilst ensconced in my Lazy Boy Recliner is just a plus ... 'take it easy, but take it' ...

  As singer / guitarist Byron noted: "A lot of punk is about making changes. Songs about political action and anarchy. But getting wasted at the Warped Tour isn’t going to bring about the revolution anytime soon. Chant-along working class hymns don’t create change. At most we’re bringing awareness to social issues. So this song is hopefully encouraging folks to get out there, get involved in their communities and start making the kinds of changes punk rockers are always singing about. Real changes are being made by real people everyday at union halls, the United Way, Canadian Blood Services, the Daily Bread Food Bank. The jocks who think it’s cool to slam the hardest on the dance floor just don’t get it, that’s not revolution.

  The song is written in talkin’ blues style like the old folk singers because Bob Dylan, the icon of all protest singers, is just as guilty of a lot of talk but little action. And The Fallout are no different either. We’re busy making music, booking shows and recording while trying not to go broke. We’ve played a lot of benefit shows, we’ve attended various protests, but have we affected any real change? It’s not about being cynical, but being honest about what it really means to be a punk."

  And: "It’s sometimes easy to think that music is a catalyst for change. This song is about being honest and accepting the fact that real change comes from people who take action. It’s about lifestyle choices that are in harmony with our communities. I participate in protests, I’m active in my trade union and I’m a regular blood donor. It’s about doing whatever you can do to impact your community in a positive way."

Please don't get excited cause I'm not keeping score
Of the chances you've blown and opportunities ignored
To help the ones you love and say you care for
While you talk righteously all about it

And it ain't getting better in fact it's getting worse
Poor are getting poorer the meek inheriting the earth
While here in the America's we're still giving birth
To the notion we're all created equal

Now I don't think you understand what you're fighting for
Our music, poetry and politics don't lead to a cure
We need more than talkin'' punk rock civil war

Please don't take me wrong, don't get pissed off
But the injustice and violence that you think you can stop
Continues everyday as we sing our protest songs

Talk without action produces no results
Self-gratifying lifestyles removing any doubt
The chimes of freedom have long wrung out
In a world where direct action counts

Monday, 21 September 2020

Randy Smith selects his favourite protest songs from 2000 onwards (part 3)


  Randy from Rebel Time Records continues selecting his favourite recent protest songs... 


  Frank Sinatra sings, masterfully, "regrets, I've had a few, but, then again, too few to mention." One of my big regrets is not having been able to see Streetlight Saints (https://www.facebook.com/streetlightsaintsyyc/) when they played a Sunday Slamfest in Hamilton in October 2019 as, alas, the band broke up shortly thereafter. To paraphrase Frank: "Just like a flame / Streetlight Saints burned brightly, then became / An empty smoke dream that has gone / Gone with the wind." That said, thankfully, I did see the band once, at The Casbah in Hamilton.

  In their own words, Streetlight Saints were: "melodic street punk from Calgary, Alberta Canada. Sing along pub rock anthems with a social conscience. (Providing) a positive voice for the underdogs, outcasts and down trodden in today's society."

  As far as I can tell, the band unleashed upon the world, at most, 7 songs. Each one is an instant classic, anchored by singer Pete's perfect pipes. Songs about bashing the fash, about Canada's residential schools and our treatment of First Nations, etc. I think my first exposure to the band was the video for the song "Our Common Struggle / Bash The Fash." An auspicious beginning to say the least!

  As one member of the band noted, in an interview with Porkpie E-Zine: "most working class bands share an ideology and a distaste for injustice and imbalance socially, politically and economically and that is something I can get behind. The stuff we write as a band means something to me, I like that we have some things of substance to say to people who are listening." And, "part of our mantra has always been about thinking for yourself, unity, doing the right thing, using your influence to create change, let's hope that rubs off on people."


  This was the band's first song on their first release; a split 7" with the amazing Reckless Upstarts that was released on Insurgence Records (as an aside, I was tickled pink to have Rebel Time Records described by a member of the band in the aforementioned interview as "Insurgence Record's more punk sister label") and it certainly seemed to me to be a harbinger of greatness to come. Thus it's importance. Just a humdinger of a tune. Passionate, political punk. On-point, meaningful and masterful musicianship and message. "More, please," I said to myself!

 With regards to this particular tune, the band writes:

  "We wrote this song prior to the Covid-19 outbreak as a response to the widening gap between the ruling class and the shrinking middle class. We've been provided with so many distractions in the form of the media and the entertainment industry that we lost track of what was really going on in the world.

  How much is enough? The ruling class making record profits yet still their hands are firmly in our pockets squeezing out the last bit of toothpaste from the working class's collective tube.

  The system is broken, it needs to be broken down and re-built if we're ever to experience true equality. The only vote that truly counts as democracy falls is with your wallet and your actions. Social media posts will not save the world. Status Quo?, no, we'll push forward.

  No war but the class war."

  So...I tip my hat and raise my glass to a band that burned briefly but brightly. Like Frank sang, "Thanks for the memory."

Rock together walk together heads are all held high
Our bond cannot be broken we'll be true until we die
Some people come, some people go
It's your line that we won't toe
Status quo no we'll push forward

Blind folded eyes can't see the disorder
We'll burn the corporations to the ground
Build upon the ashes fuck your petty rations
Blind folded eyes can't see the disorder

How much is too much where do you draw the line?
What's yours is yours yet you still want mine
A country that only cares about the upper class
Vote with your wallet and give them the brass

Blind folded eyes can't see the disorder
We'll burn the corporations to the ground
Build upon the ashes fuck your petty rations
Blind folded eyes can't see the disorder

Blind folded eyes can't see the disorder
We'll burn the corporations to the ground
Build upon the ashes fuck your petty rations
Blind folded eyes can't see the disorder

Sunday, 20 September 2020

Randy Smith selects his favourite protest songs from 2000 onwards (part 2)

  Randy from Rebel Times Records (https://rebeltimerecords.bandcamp.com/) continues chatting about his favourite political/protest songs released since 2000... 

Moral Crux - Revolution (Shouldn't Be So Hard)

  I've long been a fan of Moral Crux (https://www.facebook.com/moralcruxofficial/). Based out of Spokane, Washington, around since the '80s, poppy punk rock centered around singer James Farris's lefty social and political commentary. For me personally, pretty much a perfect band.

  One reviewer said of the band: "It was as if Generation X and the Canadian Subhumans had a head-on collision at The Ramones’ practice pad." Nicely put, and I'll add that Moral Crux is, for me, kind of, sort of, somewhat of a potent and perfect blend of two of my favourite bands: you get the politics of MDC (Millions of Dead Cops) and the pop-punk of MTX (Mr. T. Experience). An odd combination? Maybe, but, hey, both MDC and MTX played together at the Anarchist Unconvention in Toronto in 1988 (an evening of which I have, due to some over-indulgence, only a very hazy memory)!

  A political band for sure, but that's not to say James can't write a poppy love song / unrequited love song / break-up song. Just check out "Yesterday's Kisses","Get Outta My Brain,""Firing Squad," or their cover of "Teenage Kicks." Because, let's face it, while Buenaventura Durruti said that "we carry a new world here, in our hearts. That world is growing this minute, " sometimes those hearts get broken and those worlds are shattered." Need a 'hurtin' song'? Moral Crux may just have you covered.

  And, I'll just get a plug in for Rebel Time Records here and mention that both Moral Crux and The Fallout (new album out now on Rebel Time Records and Discos Machete ... 15 tracks of  partisan and unapologetically political agitp(r)op punk rock) cite The Queers as musical influences ...

  My first exposure to Moral Crux came when I picked up a copy of their 1993 release "...And Nothing But The Truth" at a record store on Queen Street in Toronto. What I thought would be my last exposure to Moral Crux came when I picked up 2003's "Pop Culture Assassins" which came out on Ben Weasel's Panic Button Records and which was distributed by Lookout Records.

  Between 1993 and 2003 Moral Crux released a veritable cornucopia of outstanding albums on various labels. And, well, sadly, that seemed to be it. Then, suddenly, and without a lot of hullabaloo, in 2015, the band released the "Revolution" 7" on Mooster Records. Considering it had been 12 long years since their last release, this was a very, very pleasant and unexpected surprise. Frankly, I was gob-smacked. The "Revolution" EP is 4 tracks of Moral Crux's perfect, timeless and catchy-as-heck political pop punk and the welcome return of a band whose music and message  continue to be, 30+ years into it, motivating and mobilizing.

  James was kind enough to write a few words about the origin of the song. Thanks so much James!

  "I was mowing the lawn and for decades I always was fascinated how we (the 99 percent) have the power if we can just unite on so many issues of fairness, decency that we all have in common. It just came to me in a simple, perhaps, juvenile sense of: revolution shouldn’t be so hard since we have the number of people in our favor. It was one of those organic moments that a lot of times a songwriter will toss the term / slogan away due to it sounding too simplistic. But, in this case I assumed it worked. Of course the Beatles song Revolution and many other songs in rock over the years dealing with said topic exist, granted ... kinda interesting the background vocal on ”Revolution shouldn’t be so hard” has an early Beatles feel. The bridge/breakdown has a Ramones style cop."

  And, while revolution may be hard, getting your hands on (or ears wrapped around) the sounds of revolution ain't. Literally as I'm writing this, I see, via FB that Moral Crux has added yet more material to their Moral Crux bandcamp page...

  In Moral Crux news, according to James, the band is looking for a label to re-release some of their vinyl and the band does have new material ready to be recorded! Yes!! Stay tuned!!

Revolution shouldn't be so hard
We've got the numbers and the cause at heart
Revolution shouldn't be so hard
Plutocrats without regard
Society's soul in disregard

Dignity a distant memory in a system that destroys
No concessions, true correctives - solidarity!

Corporate elites absent of care
They can steal but cannot share
Revolution shouldn't be so hard
They can destroy but cannot build
They can repress but cannot lead
Revolution shouldn't be so hard

Dignity a distant memory in a system that destroys
No concessions, true correctives - solidarity!

We live is a society not just an economy
Social justice is equality

Revolution shouldn't be so hard...

Randy Smith selects his favourite protest songs from 2000 onwards (part 1)


  Randy is the guy behind the Canadian independent music project Rebel Time Records. He's spent most of his life involved in political activism. He's also someone who goes above and beyond the call of duty when I ask him to contribute to this blog. The next 8 days I'm turning the blog over to him... 

Intro: Mick was kind enough/ brave enough to ask me to do another of my long-winded lists for this blog. Thanks Mick! Somewhat vaguely he asked me to do up a "top ten of your favourite political or protest songs (with maybe a few words as to why they're so important)?" I decided to narrow it down to songs from the 2000s, with the one rule being that I not include any Rebel Time Records releases ( a rule I immediately broke, because, well, fuck my rules). Basically, these are all songs that I continually come back to, songs that I never get tired of listening to. Thematically, these are simply songs of unity, inclusion, solidarity and struggle. And, rather than having to put up with me droning on endlessly and ad nauseum, I've, where possible / needed, enlisted the help of the songwriters themselves to explain what the songs are about. Thank you all! Of course, the views and opinions expressed below are those of the author / songwriters only.

Afterboltxebike - De Que Lado Estas?

I've oft been asked by people who don't know me very well: "Hey, what sports you into?" My stock response has been and always will be: "Politics is my sport." I mean, there are similarities, analogies and parallels for sure. You've got 'parties' and 'teams' and 'sides' you've got 'us' and 'them,'you've got 'winning' and 'losing,' you've got 'Super Tuesday' and 'Super Bowl.'
When asked "What sport is politics?," President Obamba said  "It’s probably most like football.” Because a lot of players. A lot of specialization. A lot of hitting.” A lot of attrition. But then every once in a while you’ll see an opening. You hit the line, you get one yard. You try a play, you get sacked, now it’s like third and 15. But every once in a while — you have to punt a lot — but every once in a while you’ll see a hole and then there’s open field.”

Sounds like some of the political 'campagains' I've been involved in over the years for sure!
"De Que Lado Estas?" by Afterboltxebike ("anti-capitalist, anti-fascist, anti-racist, and one hundred percent communist punk from Nuevo Leon, Mexico" ) asks the simple, yet essential and all-important question, ‘Which Side Are You On?’ or, to go with the sports analogy, "Which Team Are You On?" or "Who Are You Cheering For?" Are you on Team Proletariat or Team Oppressor? For Afterboltxebike, the answer (and the way / the path down the field) is clear,  you’re either with the bosses or with the oppressed and this band is on the side of the workers/the proletariat/the exploited. Afterboltxebike knows that class struggle is the motor of history. And, it is a struggle. Afterboltxebike knows that we're going to get sacked, we're going get hit and there will be attrition, but we'll keep aiming for that 'open field.'

Diego Armando, singer / guitarist says that "Afterbolxebike was born with the idea of using music as a medium to spread marxism, anti-capitalism and anti-fascism. "What Side Are You On?" was the first song I wrote. What I was looking for was a kind of declaration of our principles so that those who listened to us would know our political ideas and there would be no doubt about what kind of band we are. It’s also an invitation to question our own participation within society. We believe that the worker continues to be the revolutionary subject capable of transforming capitalism into a superior society in which we can overcome the relationship between the exploited worker and the exploiting employer. A simple question, what side are you on? It’s enough to be able to question and answer what we are doing in our life and in this society."

An important song and an important band for me because, like with Urban Vietcong, a chance internet encounter has led to an ongoing love affair. In 2016 I saw a video for this song on facebook and was immediately hooked. I got in touch with the band, via Diego, and the rest is history. Got the 8-song "No Pasaran" cassette under our belts and the 3-song "Marxist Agitiation" 7" on the way.

What attracted me to Afterboltxebike was, of course, the music, but especially the lyrics. Songs about waking up very early in the morning to go to a shitty job,songs about ETA and YPJ/YPG,songs about anti-fascism and anti-colonialism, and, especially, a song about reading (The song "Leer")!! How many bands have done a song about the importance of reading?? For me personally, literature/books/zines are very important and a big part of my life, so it was inspiring to hear the band sing: “Read to study/ Read to learn/ Read for liberation.” Go read a book!

What also impressed me (and is very important to me) is that Afterboltxebike “walks the talk." Diego not only produces a political punk zine and makes punk documentaries, but he (and, at the time) other members of the band were active in local left-wing political organizations and struggles. Like DOA said: “talk minus action equals zero.”

And, by the way, this week I managed to get 11 out of 15 winning teams picked in the National Football League pool I'm in at work ... not bad ...

No tengo duda estoy convencido
Que mis patrones son mis enemigos
No aspiro a ser como uno de ellos
Mi fuerza esta con los obreros

Las cadenas que te tienen atado
Están en tu cabeza, están en tus manos
Nuestra trinchera te está esperando

Nuestro camino está muy claro
Revolución del proletariado
Nuestro sendero está iluminado
Por los comunistas que han luchado

¿De qué lado estas?
¿Del patrón o del proletariado?

I have no doubt, I am convinced
That the bosses are my enemies
I do not aspire to be like one of them
My strength is with the workers

The chains that have you tied
They are in your head, they are in your hands
Our struggle is waiting for you
You are with the bosses or with the exploited ones
Our way is very clear
Revolution of the proletariat
Our path is illuminated
By the Communists who have fought
What side are you on?
Of the boss or the proletariat
What side are you on?

Saturday, 19 September 2020

The Cool Greenhouse - Alexa! (Guest Review By Billy Ouka)


  "Alexa play something decent"

  "It's better to be both loved and hated in equal measure than merely tolerated" is a comment I made in the Just Some Punk Songs chatroom as the listeners were giving their opinions on the new single by The Cool Greenhouse (https://www.facebook.com/thecoolgreenhouse/). A few people loved it, a few didn't. One pissed off for a smoke disappointed that once again I wasn't playing anything by Hawkwind!. But I'm a fan (otherwise I wouldn't have played it) and Billy Ouka rushed off to buy it so I asked him to write a few words of recommendation... 

  The Cool Greenhouse new single is great piece of simple DIY pop magic, coming after their highly acclaimed debut album, this new single is their best release yet, a simple beat and tune, two notes at most, with a deadpan monologue vocal delivery commenting upon the use of AI Alexa's role in our lives (not mine I might add).

  A solo project that has developed into a  five piece, they craft humorous repetitive pop-leaning gems that are as bizarre as they are brilliant. With live performances that have been received really well. There's so many influences in there but the two that stand out are Jonathan Richmond and the Modern Lovers and Attila the Stockbroker, not a bad mix. With articles in Maximum Rock n Roll and DIYMag, this is a band to watch out for, as our future becomes more dystopian The Cool Greenhouse will be a perfect soundtrack. 

  It's available on random colour vinyl or as a digital download : https://thecoolgreenhouse.bandcamp.com/album/alexa 

  This is Alexa!... 

Friday, 18 September 2020

Helen Love - Songs From My Teens (PUNK AS F**K)


  For almost 30 years now, Welsh band Helen Love have been mixing up punk rock, indie, disco, pop and a love of Joey Ramone to create some of the catchiest music you'll ever hear. They recently returned with a rather splendid double A sided single on Alcopop! Records. 

  On one side is another of their many Ramones love fests, it's titled 1234 Dee Dee Ramone and it's a jump up and down with a big grin on your face slice of pure bubblegum joy. You can check out the video here :  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfoPacEDIX0

  The flip side, in my opinion is even better and comes with 2 videos. There's the 90's version (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W9-SfO1AGyg) which takes us down memory lane via the likes of Pulp, Ash, Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, Atari Teenage Riot, Stereolab, Kenickie, Heavenly etc and there's also the punk as F**k version in which Helen demonstrates how her 70's & 80's record collection is every bit as vital as her 90's one (Buzzcocks, Adverts, Young Marble Giants, Undertones, X Ray Spex, Blondie, Altered Images to name a few).  

  This is Songs From My Teens...

Thursday, 17 September 2020

Dartgun And The Vignettes - The Church Of Monday Night Football


  Today's song isn't a new release, the video you'll see below is a couple of years old, but it was on a recent compilation album and it is bloody good so it's getting posted. 

  Dartgun were formed in 2004 in Portland, Oregon, by Chuck Thrust (lead vocals/rhythm guitar/bari sax) and had their sound augmented 3 years later by the introduction of backing vocalists The Vignettes. They style themselves a "psychedelic punk rock doo-wop group" though I have to confess I only came across them recently and have only thus far heard a handful of tracks. I have discovered that they look to be lots of fun with the track I'm featuring today managing to make me think simultaneously of both The B-52's and The Dead Kennedys. 

  Aside from vocalist Chuck, the band also features Chad Dit It (bass), Bob Fountain (keyboard), Andrew Scanlan (lead guitar), Nathan Thorsen plus The Vignettes; Kat Aklysm & Christine (fellow Vignette Dana Thompson who features on this song sadly passed away last year).  

  Volume Bomb The Cops is a new charity compilation album featuring some very cool bands such as Millions Of Dead Cops, Dead Kennedys,  D.O.A. etc that... "was born from our individual experiences and our frustration with the status quo around police power and use of deadly force, specifically pertaining to people of color; as well as the utter lack of oversight or repercussions for officers who murder people in the street. Now, with riots in our cities, and protesters of all stripes being beaten down, shot, gassed and maced, the timing for this record has never been more relevant." ALL PROCEEDS from the record will be donated to "Don't Shoot PDX", a Portland based community non-profit working to increase civic participation and social change to create racial equity and equality. You can find it here :  https://volumebomb.bandcamp.com/album/volume-bomb-the-cops 
  This was the song that stood out for me, it's "a rock n roll fueled surfed up doo-wop battle cry" and it's called The Church Of Monday Night Football...