Pop Philosophy

America attacks back -- in the key of D

While walking in Berkeley recently, I noticed a large, stenciled message on the ground that featured a tweaked American flag and the slogan "Resist patriotism" below it. "Ah, Berkeley," I thought, "how gloriously out of step you are with the times -- and the nation's amateur songwriters."

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, showing those hate-filled terrorists that we love our country is as easy as "Do, re, mi." So far, I've been treated to CD-Rs featuring country songs, acoustic songs, orchestral songs, cheesy synth songs, and ham-fisted rock songs. I've listened to angry tunes and proud numbers and weepy tracks; I've endured bad songs, really bad songs, and worse-than-really-bad songs. Each is incessantly righteous and determined; all are humorless (if rich in unintended comic effect). Here's a sample.

San Francisco native Mike Goldenberg's "Done to You" comes in a purple-packaged "business card CD" and is a direct response to the Sept. 11 attacks. Over acoustic strumming and some creepy background guitar wanking, Goldenberg gives his best Bon Jovi impression. In fact, the difference between this song and "Wanted Dead or Alive" is so minute that Jon Boy may be interested in exercising his inalienable right to litigate. Maybe Goldenberg can settle out of court by giving Bon Jovi lyrics like, "Smell the smoke and powder/ Hear the drums of war/ See the black flag flyin'/ At the undertaker's door."

Over in the Amen Section, we have Jonna Bianco and Colleen Lloy's "In America," a plodding bit of religioso muck with lyrics like, "In America, we have the right to choose and to believe/ To live our lives the way God would want, in peace and harmony." Perhaps the ladies would like to know that Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar believes that God is intent on delivering "the destruction of America," instead of "the moon and stars and bright and shining sun."

Steve Price wrote his contribution, "Freedom in America," seven years ago. But he's resurrected the tune because he says he's been getting a lot of requests for it lately. The song's sudden popularity may have something to do with its narrow-visioned jingoism: Price asserts that we're "talking 'bout freedom only in America." Maybe we can copyright the concept and sue any non-American who tries to use it.

Other folks are looking to make some cash off their chest-puffing tuneage. Las Vegas' Alan Broze -- whose promo sheet makes sure to mention that he's a Vietnam vet and whose music Web site is also the home of Goldfather's Jewelry (www. mccmusic.com) -- has a song called "The Red White and Blue." It can be yours for only $8, one-quarter of which goes to the Red Cross. Now, I appreciate Broze's earnest donation, but since it costs about a buck to buy a CD-R, he's making five bones off the red blood of "America's anger" (his words, not mine -- no, really).

Likewise, Dave Storm & Thunder Creek want you to pay $8 for their version of "America the Beautiful," which the band has reworked into a thank you to the countries standing by us in this time of crisis. Of course, a medley of patriotic songs from Uzbekistan and Belgium might've been a more appropriate show of appreciation, rather than this tepid claptrap horror show.

I American's "Pillars of Freedom" is the best of the bunch, mostly because it sounds like a spoof by Negativland. Singer Larry Bagby III, whom Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans might recognize as the now-deceased gay character Larry, even has a nasal tone similar to Negativland's co-conspirator, the Weatherman. On the song, Bagby (whose Web site, www.larrybagby. com, sure goes a long way to prove to his Christian friends that he's not gay) worries about the possible loss of freedoms in a time of war. Besides borrowing seven verses from the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, Bagby and bandmate T. Michael Shanklin proffer dinky programmed beats, sweeping synths, and warbled lyrics such as, "If we had no rights, what would we be?/ Subjects of tyranny in the land of the free." I know one right this whole lot should've embraced: the right to remain silent.

I love the smell of napalm in my thirst quencherAnother of our inalienable prerogatives is the right to be struck dumb by the advertising industry's choice of music in commercials. The latest bizarre instance involves Powerade using the song "Monk Time" by the mid-'60s garage band the Monks for its spots. Here's a band of G.I.s who stayed in Germany after their hitches were up, shaved bald spots in their hair, wore monk robes, and tried to make music as loud and frightening as Vietnam. What's next, the Stooges' "No Fun" serving as the theme for Great America?

 
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