So, today is the day where we all lose our goddam minds — fortunately, for some of us, we already lost them a long time ago. My views aren’t very popular right now, because, personally, both of the presidential candidates were spooking me the fuck out. I had concerns about racism, alarmingly high deportation rates, anti-gay marriage stances, corporatism, war, pro-fracking/anti-environmentalism, militarized police forces, the repeal of habeas corpus, the jailing of journalists, the detention and monitoring of Muslims, living in a surveillance state, and the drone bombing of brown children already, when the democrats were in charge. But… you know, that just happens to be because I was a brown kid and a have experience being marginalized my entire life — my assumption was that I’d just have to continue to maneuver through this system regardless of what happened, as I always have. My unpopular perspective is that we were left to choose between a candidate who basically promised not to do anything to adjust this system, while shaming those begging for help because they and their loved ones are dying within it; and another one who was clearly making empty promises, redirecting the focus to blame other marginalized groups, and whose only intention is to exploit this system to crank shit up and make it a whole lot worse across the board. To me, these aren’t partisan issues, these are power issues and powerless issues. These are issues of absurdly rich politicians determining whether or not the 50% of the population that is living in poverty deserve basic human rights, while being influenced by the corporations which profit off of them never receiving them. As I see it, the real division isn’t vertical, between blue and red, or even brown and white; it’s horizontal, between those at the top and those at the bottom. Whether it’s a gender issue, a racial issue, or a religious issues, they are all issues pertaining to power and dominance. I’m just as pissed as everyone else is, but I was among those that were already pissed before. I’m just not partisan in my anger. I hate the fucking system and I hate those profiting from it, while everyone else gets fucked.
Whether you feel like blaming Mexico for our problems, or blaming Russia, the truth is that the phone call is coming from inside the (white) house. Is Donald Trump a complete fucking trainwreck? I think that the answer to that is pretty evident — I, honestly, assumed that we’d already established him as the quintessential shithead, at least as far back as when I was growing up in the 80s — but he’s also little more than symptom of the problem, not the architect; it’s the root that needs to get dug out if we want poisonous fungus to stop sprouting on the trunk. When you still have 13 Democrats voting down Bernie Sanders‘s measure to import and reduce prices on pharmaceuticals last week — a bill that soulless Grandpa Munster-looking bastard, Ted “absolutely no technically possible way that he could actually be the Zodiac Killer, but it just kinda feels a little too spot on” Cruz even voted in favor of — then we have a systemic issue here. In fact, the ACLU actually sued the Obama administration multiple times regarding such issues as a drone “kill list,” the targeting of Muslims, and NSA surveillance, so while the fact is that this new administration promises to be even worse is tragically very real, an endless number of major issues and changes still need to be met from the ground up and our efforts need to be directed towards actual progress. The best thing happening right now is that people are finally pissed off en masse, but to be effective on any significant level there needs to be a certain amount of focus while simultaneously making sure we’re not hyper-focusing on the wrong shit. More so than the issues that face us, my concern is that the large majority will continue to attack each other, wearing themselves out on social media, and never manage to direct their energy toward anything substantial, or beyond a very very broad and general outrage. My belief is also that there is still progress and good that will come out of organizing, certain voices will be sparked from this that either have or will find vision, but for the general public, it’s understandable that it can be difficult to even know where to direct all of this passion and outrage. This is all very fresh to most of us.
Today, the Portland duo Quasi responded to all of the fears and chaos in this country by releasing a compilation album, titled Battle Hymns, accompanied by the following message.
“We release this compilation record on inauguration day to strengthen our community & raise our voices against hate! Thanks to all who contributed their time and talents. It has been a real honor. All proceeds to Planned Parenthood, The ACLU and 350.org. Download and donate www.quasiband.com“
l love seeing everyone trying to be involved in supporting the causes that they believe in from all directions, but what I really like about this new compilation release is that there is a very tangible and achievable goal within it. The two-piece, consisting of ex-husband and wife team Sam Coomes (Heat Miser, Motorgoat, Donner Party, Pink Mountain) and Janet Weiss (Sleater-Kinney, Wild Flag, ex-Jicks) have a history of injecting political subject matter into their work, so the fact that they’d be speaking out right now is not out of character, but that doesn’t make it any less admirable. Focusing on the issues that they feel strongly about and justifiably believe are in particular jeopardy at the moment — women’s health, racial inequality/justice, and environmental protection — the band is hoping to raise money for organizations devoted to supporting these causes directly. To do so, they’ve reached out to their friends and connections to compile and release 14 new tracks. Quasi, who once operated and toured as the backing band for Coomes‘s former Heatmiser bandmate, the late Elliott Smith, return to a similar role for many of the contributors here, supporting the at least half of them on this release with bass, drums, guitar, organ, piano, maracas, and/or backing vocals. Among the featured artists are some of the usual suspects, including a number of Janet‘s current and former bandmates from other projects — Carrie Brownstein (Sleater-Kinney, Wild Flag), Mary Timony (Wildflag), Corin Tucker (Sleater-Kinney), Katie Harkin (Sleater-Kinny touring multi-instrumentalist), and Stephen Malkmus (The Jicks) — as well as fellow Northwest musical luminaries, Kathy Foster (The Thermals), Drew Grow, Peter Buck (R.E.M., The Minus 5, The Baseball Project), Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows, The Minus 5, The Baseball Project), Bill Rieflin (Ministry, Swans, King Crimson), Kurt Bloch (The Fastbacks, Young Fresh Fellows), Carl Newman (The New Pornographers), Rebecca Gates (The Spinanes), Sean Croghan (Crackerbash), and Doug Martsch (Built To Spill, Treepeople). Sam Coomes, who produced the most recent Built to spill album and has appeared as a studio musician on the majority of the band’s discography, even took part in a fantasy basketball league with Martsch, and Malkmus, at one point. Also appearing on the comp are the Jon Spencer project, Boss Hog; Libraness (Ash Bowie of Polvo); and Merge Records label owner, Mac McCaughan (Superchunk, Prostatic).
It’s a pretty fucked up, chaotic, and uncertain time to be alive right now, but like I stated earlier, while a lot of people feel compelled to go out an do something, it can be difficult to know how best to direct these feelings into something constructive, which is why so many are simply screaming at each other like a cliche from the Twilight Zone. Downloading the pay-what-you-want comp, Battle Hymns isn’t going to solve all of the world’s problems over night, but it’s not a bad start; you’re supporting some great causes and getting a collection of tracks from some of the most consistent musicians in the game. For my money, Quasi, Malkmus, and Martsch can’t really do any wrong, so that alone sold me right there. And if you have plans to stay motivated and engaged socially and/or politically, then at least you’re getting a pretty solid soundtrack to motivate you and blast in the background. It may sound minor, or even trivial, but although you may feel like smashing the whole system down with one swift fist — a desire that I can completely understand and relate to — the fact is that real direct change on a small but focused level is an incredibly important and powerful tool. Throw some money at these folks, get yourself some great music, help some important causes, and encourage more of this type of work to be attempted in the future.
To nab yourself a download of Battle Hymns right now, go to QuasiBand.com and pay what you want/can. Dooooooo it!