Melding politics and music is delicate business, but it isn’t always treated that way. Conventional wisdom suggests that if you want to transmit your political views to as many people wearing headphones as possible, it takes more than simply grabbing a Fender and shouting whatever comes to mind about how the world sucks.
You may be reading this and thinking, “But isn’t that what Kathleen Hanna and her friends did with their feminist punk band Bikini Kill?” Well, yes. The band’s radical, wincingly vulgar lyrics, which became the blueprint for the Riot Grrrl Movement, ruptured out of Hanna never as recitations, but straight-from-the-heart declarations, as if her passion for the issues she sang about was so intrinsic to who she was that she could have been coming up with the songs on the spot. So yes, Bikini Kill made it seem natural. But Hanna eventually realized she’d have to alter her approach if she was going to preach past the choir she’d already won over, which brought about the frosting-coated fun, electroclash band Le Tigre. Now you could hear Hanna rant from the dancefloor. Her platform found new ears. She learned that you don’t dilute the message, you refine (and sometimes drastically alter) the mode of transmission. See also: The Clash, Public Enemy, and M.I.A.
The self-titled cassette from This Is What We Are Now, which was released along with a mini zine, presents listeners with an enraged rock band refusing to make any compromises to further spread their politics. They hate Donald Trump, and the only catering they’ll be doing to any audience is cranking the speakers even louder and forcing your ear against the cone. These are pissed off people making music for pissed off people.
The release is an EP-length collection of abrasive metal with Brad Thorla on drums, and guitar melodies by Matt Slater and Fej ranging from “an ugly afternoon” to “the apocalyptic hellfire.” Almost all the lyrics are indecipherable, though sometimes a biting slice of tirade cleanly slashes through the chaos. There’s plenty of deep-throat screaming by Slater, Fej and bassist Mike Mikely, along with some audio clips of politicians, with an appearance from our nation’s President saying something that cannot be printed in a family-friendly publication like The Devil Strip. Once you’ve heard the opener, “Locker Room Talk,” you’ve heard everything the rest of the record has to offer with subtle variations on an unabashedly unsubtle sound. Track titles include “March of the Idiots,” “Rich Men Buy Planetary Death” and “Let’s Start a Fight.” There’s no hope here, just pure rage.
This is political music at its basest form, the act of rounding up the protesters and delivering a pep-talk before the riot erupts.
If you are someone who listens to music exclusively for pleasure, this record was not made for you. If you occasionally listen to music to get all psyched-up to go break some stuff or start a brawl against a group of Trump supporters, look no further.
To catch Akron’s own This Is What We Are Now live, follow them on Facebook @ This Is What We Are Now. Listen to their album and purchase it for $5 at thisiswhatwearenow.bandcamp.com.
Kyle Cochrun is a writer from Akron, Ohio who believes that Midnight Vultures is Beck’s masterpiece album. He will probably change his mind in a week or so.