Friday, March 10, 2017

Unpresidented Jams: Tunes for Trump's America

Truth be told, I'm not sure how many of the songs on Unpresidented Jams - the 'fuck Trump' charity compilation that Audio Antihero released the other week - are actually *about* Donald Trump and the current political climate in the USA. I know that at least a few of the tracks featured here were written and recorded back in the relatively halcyon days of the Obama administration, but...well, I don't know. Maybe it's because every single breaking news story these days seems to revolve around Trump and his cabinet of horrors, or maybe it's just because it's difficult to enjoy music at all right now without asking what it has to say about the present mess we're in, but either way, I didn't have to listen too closely to Unpresidented Jams to start hearing every line as a piece of political commentary.

I'm not talking about the nakedly political likes of Dictator Seeks Reichstag Fire, Jeffrey Lewis's contribution to this comp, which warns: "the right way to act still doesn't change if attacked, don't let your fear of the other give a pass to Big Brother". Songs whose lyrics would have seemed trifling in another reality sound like rallying cries and state-of-the-union addresses in the context with which we're unfortunately stuck. For all I know, CHUCK's wonderfully pissed-off Nothing Matters to Me Now was written about someone who cut Charles Griffin Gibson up at a roundabout, but it's impossible now to hear it as anything other than a gloveslap to the face of the President of the United Goddamn States.

"Your little hands up some skirt - God, I wanna make you hurt!"

Similarly, Magana's To Be the Same - a bruised black sky of a song that, in spite of its stripped-back arrangement and laid-back tempo, seethes like a pressure cooker - might have been interpreted in any number of different ways had it been released a couple of years ago, but in the here and now, the only image it conjures up in my mind is a cinematic shot of Jeni Magana  standing on some rainy NYC rooftop and dangling Donald Trump over the edge by his ankles, forcing him to look down at all the people whose lives he would shatter with a stroke of his presidential pen.

Even some of the songs that were commercially released years before Trump came to power now sound like they're aimed at him. The barely-coherent rage of i hate sex's furious Sleep Paralysis (originally released in March 2015) feels like a reasonable reaction to the recent news cycle. The title of Little Fist by Mulligrub comes across as a fun dig at Trump's famously small hands. The presence of a Blondie cover on this compilation - Okin Osan's rough 'n' ready stab at Sunday Girl - feels like a statement of defiance, a nod to one of rock's most celebrated female performers at a time when women are being targeted and marginalised on a frankly absurd scale.

Indeed, it's important to note that this compilation isn't all about venting - there are positive moments amongst all the violence and bubbling anger. My personal favourite is Deerful's chirpy Unlearn/Begin Again, which - in addition to being easily the most danceable of the nineteen tracks featured on Unpresidented Jams - offers a bright message of hope and solidarity for these chaotic days.


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