International Relations versus Punk Rock (Slight Return)

Nothing could compromise a joint blog project more than disagreement over music. Luckily, this much-delayed follow-up to Joe’s sonic assault on global politics gets to play the role of supplement and supplicant, and not that of adversary. And no, it’s not bloody Christmas-themed.

Nobody was as fully aware of the properly traumatic dimension of the human voice, the human voice not as the sublime, ethereal medium for expressing the depth of human subjectivity, but the human voice as a foreign intruder, nobody was more aware of this than Charlie Chaplin [in The Great Dictator]…Silent figures are basically like figures in cartoons, they don’t know death, they don’t know sexuality even, they don’t know suffering, they just go on in their oral egotistic striving, like cats and mouse in a cartoon: you cut them into pieces, they’re reconstituted. There is no finitude, there is no mortality here. There is evil, but a kind of a naïve, good evil, you are just egotistical, you want to compete, you want to hit the other, but there is no guilt proper. What we get with sound is interiority, depth, guilt, pulpability, in other words the complex oedipal universe. The problem of the film is not only the political problem, how to get rid of totalitarianism, of its terrible seductive power, but it is also this more formal problem, how to get rid of this terrifying dimension of the voice. Or, since we cannot get rid of it, how to domesticate it, how to transform this voice nonetheless into the means of expressing humanity, love, and so on…

[Chaplin’s character] delivers his big speech about the need of love, understanding between people, but there is a catch, even a double catch: people applaud exactly in the same way as they were applauding Hitler. The music that accompanies this great humanist finale, the overture to Wagner’s opera Lohenngrin is the same music as the one we hear when Hitler is daydreaming about conquering the entire world and where he has a balloon in the shape of the globe, the music is the same. This can be read as the ultimate redemption of music, that the same music which served evil purposes can be redeemed to served the good, or it can be read – and I think it should be read – in a much more ambiguous way, that with music we cannot ever be sure, insofar as it externalises our inner passion music is always potentially a threat.

Slavoj Žižek, The Pervert’s Guide To Cinema

We humans are a musical species no less than a linguistic one.

Oliver Sacks, Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain

1. Fugazi, ‘Smallpox Champion’, In On The Kill Taker (1993)

Smallpox champion, U S of A
Give natives some blankets
Warm like the grave
This is the pattern cut from the cloth
This is the pattern designed to take you right out, right out, right out
This is the frontier with winter’s so cold
Greed informs action where action makes bold
To take all the cotton that’s cut from the stalk
Weave the disease that’s gonna take you right out, right out, right out
What is good for the future what was good for the past
What is good for the future…won’t last
Bury your heart U S of A
History rears up to spit in your face
You saw what you wanted
You took what you saw
We know how you got it
Your method equals wipe out, wipe out, wipe out
The end of the frontier and all that you own
Under the blankets of all that you’ve done
Memory serves us to serve you
Yet memory serves us to never let you wipe out, wipe out, wipe out
You’ll get yours
Wipe out

2. Ani Difranco, ‘Fuel’, Little Plastic Castle (1998)

They were digging a new foundation in Manhattan
And they discovered a slave cemetery there
May their souls rest easy now that lynching is frowned upon
And we’ve moved on to the electric chair
And I wonder who’s gonna be president, tweedle dum or tweedle dummer?
And who’s gonna have the big blockbuster box office this summer?
Maybe we can put up a wall between the houses and the highway
And you can go your way, and I can go my way
Am I headed for the same brick wall
Is there anything I can do about
Anything at all?
Except go back to that corner in Manhattan
And dig deeper, dig deeper this time
Down beneath the impossible pain of our history
Beneath unknown bones
Beneath the bedrock of the mystery
Beneath the sewage system and the PATH train
Beneath the cobblestones and the water mains
Beneath the traffic of friendships and street deals
Beneath the screeching of kamikaze cab wheels
Beneath everything I can think of to think about
Beneath it all, beneath all, get out
Beneath the good and the kind and the stupid and the cruel
There’s a fire just waiting for fuel
There’s a fire

3. Jimi Hendrix, ‘Machine Gun’, Band Of Gypsys (1969/1970)

I’d like to dedicate this one to – it’s such a draggy scene that’s going on – to all the soldiers who are fighting in Chicago and Milwaukee and New York, and, oh yes, to all the soldiers fighting in Vietnam.

4. Propagandhi, ‘Mate Ka Moris Ukun Rasik An’, Today’s Empires, Tomorrow’s Ashes (2000)

Dickheads shit-talk huddled and single-file
First-world frat-boys and prairie skinheads who will never walk a mile
Or mourn a murdered friend in this tiny woman’s shoes
Drink up and mumble your abuse
I’m still humbled by it all
And around the same time I was riding with no hands
Busting windows and getting busy behind the sportsplex
Bella was flinching from the sting of a Depo Proveran “family planning”
Her own Pearl Harbour and a holocaust spanning 25 years to life
A prison my country underwrote in paradise
And in the shadows of Santa Cruz she crossed her fingers behind her back
Built Suharto a Trojan horse and lay still till the motherfucker sent her north
Where as night fell she emerged with a box under her arm
That held her pledge of allegiance and her uniform
And she laid it at the gates of the General’s embassy
And her whisper echoed into dawn as she disappeared:
The truth will set my people free.

5. Pearl Jam, ‘Grievance’, Binaural (2000)

Have a drink they’re buying
Bottom of, bottle of denial
Big guy, big eye, watching me
Have to wonder what it sees
Progress… laced with… ramifications…
Freedom’s big plunge
Pull the innocent from a crowd
Raise the sticks then bring em down
If they fail to obey
For every tool they lend us, a loss of independence
I pledge my grievance to the flag
Cause you don’t give blood to take it back again
Oh we’re all deserving something more
Progress, taste it, invest-it-all
Champagne breakfast for everyone
Break the innocent when they’re proud
Raise the stakes then bring ’em down
If they fail to obey

6. The Specials, ‘Man At C&A’, More Specials (1980)

Warning, warning, nuclear attack
Atomic sounds designed to blow your mind
World War Three
Nuclear attack
Rocking atomically, this Third World War
Atomic sounds
The man in black he told me
The latest Moscow news about the storm across the red sea
They drove their ball point views
I’m the man in grey, I’m just the man at C & A
And I don’t have a say in the war games that they play
The Mickey Mouse badge told the Ayatollah at his feet
You drink your oil you schmuck, we’ll eat our heads of wheat
I’m the man in grey, I’m just the man at C & A
And I don’t have a say in the war games that they play

7. Ted Leo & The Pharmacists, ‘Bomb. Repeat. Bomb.’, Living With The Living (2007)

Like a gray bird in a blue sky over a blue ocean civilized men fly
Through puffy clouds and beautiful rainbows with the power and the speed
And the will to succeed, moneyed men fly high
No need to clomp around through the ash, the rubble, and the mud
No need for face-to-face, or even worse to put a perfectly spit-shined brand new pair of leather boots on the dirty, busty ground
So when you drop in and out of the white clouds in a blue sky
Don’t worry about them having to see the whites of your eyes
Just let the payload fly and wing on home, my son – it’s not your day to die
And when the crying starts, you won’t have to see their bloodshot eyes turn red
And when the dying starts, you won’t have to know a thing about who’s dead
This is your mission: pretend it’s television, where the good guys always win
And they’re gonna win again, because you’re gonna bomb
Oh, they can keep talking – let ’em keep talking – they can talk while the bombs fall around them, for all I care
But when you’ve had enough of this diplomatic bullshit and your patience is up well alright!
It’s on, and they asked for it
Ah, but you’ll want to give yourself a minute, to take in the beauty of the sight
As you come in over the mountains between the green earth and the sky and bomb yes
In and out, no mess, no fuss

8. Sleater-Kinney, ‘Combat Rock’, One Beat (2002)

They tell us there are only two sides to be on
If you are on our side you’re right, if not you’re wrong
But are we innocent, paragons of good?
Is our guilt erased by the pain that we’ve endured?
Hey look it’s time to pledge allegiance
Oh god I love my dirty Uncle Sam
Our country’s marching to the beat now
And we must learn to step in time
Where is the questioning, where is the protest song?
Since when is scepticism un-American?
Dissent’s not treason but they talk like it’s the same
Those who disagree are afraid to show their face
Let’s break out our old machines now
It sure is good to see them run again
Oh gentlemen start your engines
And we know where we get the oil from
Are you feeling alright now
Paint myself all red white blue
Are you singing let’s fight now
Innocent people die, uh oh
There are reasons to unite
Is this why we unite?
If you hate this time
Remember we are the time!
Show you love your country go out and spend some cash
Red white blue hot pants doing it for Uncle Sam
Flex our muscles show them we’re stronger than the rest
Raise your hands up baby are you sure that we’re the best?
We’ll come out with our fists raised
The good old boys are back on top again
And if we let them lead us blindly
The past becomes the future once again

9. Clutch, ‘Army Of Bono’, Blast Tyrant (2004)

Hold the presses, Mikey! Hot news on the wire!
Hundreds see an image of a Guinness drinking choir
Celebrities and cameras, are headed to the scene
While presidents are fleeing to their speeding limousines
Don’t worry, it’s just stigmata
Pass me a napkin, and don’t you dare tell my mother
Your local programming, interrupted
By the mindless banter of a soulless talking head
Roll out the red carpet, dripping bloody tongue
Pay no mind to blue berets and all their shiny guns
Who you gonna call when the man brings his hammer down?
Goose-stepping with a smoking Irish fly
And when our world is over, children by the fire
Raise their hands and pray that they may see a new Messiah
And somewhere in the darkness, a flag goes running by
The smell of cigarettes and love are incense for the fly
Goose-stepping with a smoking Irish fly

10. The Evens, ‘Dinner With The President’, Get Evens (2006)

Half way in, line forty-four
No turning back, there’s just the other shore
So on and on and on and on
The other year, it occurred to me
I don’t accept their social currency
I have no use for their reward
Dinner with the President
Available, but they’re not calling me
I live in town, it’s not geography
Why won’t this invitation come?
Dinner with the President
Maybe we don’t have any common interests
Maybe we don’t speak the same tongue
Maybe power lies in innaccessibility
Maybe power lies
Power lies
I don’t exist in their world-view
But if I win I know what I’d like to do
Stand up and scream while food is served
Dinner with the President
Have you had enough?
Have you had enough?
Your plate is overflowing
Can’t you see you’ve had enough?

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