Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Through a List, Dubiously.

National Review's list of the 50 Greatest Conservative Rock Songs is, by and large, a monument to the Iron Triangle of Contemporary Conservative Thought: 1) wishful thinking 2) desperation and 3) missing the point entirely. That said, they have found, on occasion, one or two tunes that perhaps fit the mold they are looking for. But, again, by and large, this is sort of a joke.

1. "Won't Get Fooled Again", by The Who
Gotta admit, it takes some degree of chutzpah to rank a song famously mangled by the Glorious Leader in one of his public utterances as the number one. But, the NR's interpretation of this song is so insular as to be useless. I'm afraid my decidedly non-conservative worldview is PLENTY validated by this song. Besides, I wish the administration WOULD take a vow to not get fooled again--hire Richard Clarke back and stop listening to Ahmed Chalabi.

2. "Taxman", by the Beatles
Jeesh. A monosyllabic song by one of the most liberal bands on the planet. Beatle-phile Paul Hashemi sums up the inclusion best: "Everybody wants a piece of the Beatles, and they had such a huge amount of output that there's BOUND to be a song or two that people can read into. On the other hand, "I Am the Walrus" is about... er... being a walrus. Or an eggman. And OBVIOUSLY, the eggman is a liberal - he feels likehe's the victim of the Military-Pushing-Off-Walls complex." Yeah, everyone knows Rumsfeld has it in for the Eggman.

3. "Sympathy For The Devil", by the Rolling Stones
NR calls this "The Screwtape Letters of rock." Actually, the song was inspired by Bulgakov's novel The Master and Margarita. Naturally, the book is anti-Stalinist and the Moscow intelligentsia is made to look like fools. But if the GOP wants to assert Bulgakov's particular re-imagining of the Christian ethos--in which the Devil is portrayed as a servant of God, and Jesus and Pilate become best buddies, then hell: sign me up! But don't be surprised when Antonin Scalia throws a shit-fit. Additionally, the NR misinterprets lyrics badly: it's not the devil "that will try to make you think" that cops are criminals and sinners are saints--the devil says in the song that that's the way it is! To wit: "I watched with glee while your kings and queens fought for ten decades for the gods they made." Poor National Review: still puzzled by the nature of his game.

4. "Sweet Home Alabama", by Lynyrd Skynyrd
Feh. This is only conservative to the NR because it's about the South--a world most of the pointy-headed elites they have on staff couldn't hope to understand and that they'd doubtlessly avoid visiting given the chance. Plus it's a "response song" to Neil Young. Pretty thin premise.

5. "Wouldn't It Be Nice", by the Beach Boys
It would be nice if the song wasn't kindergarten-level lyrics, or that this supposedly "pro-family" song wasn't performed by a bunch of drugged-out pals of the Manson family.

6. "Gloria" by U2.
Only the National Review would consider a Latin paean to the uber-liberal offspring of God, sung by a destitute man "beautifully reactionary." They should have listened harder to to the cries from rooftops in the Lower Ninth Ward.

7. "Revolution" by the Beatles
Heh. Cf. "Taxman." Though Paul adds: ""Revolution" is a song about disillusionmentwith organized social movements - surely a libertarian impulse - butit's also about love, love, love and all that hippie crap thatconservatives love to bash."

8. "Bodies" by the Sex Pistols
Surely they joke. Badly misconstrued as an anti-abortion song by the NR, the song is actually anti-the-conditions-that-lead-to-abortion.
Just ask the songwriter.

9. "Don't Tread On Me", by Metallica
The National Review can take this bunch of Luddite dipshits who needed the help of a therapist in order to rock for all I care.

10. "20th Century Man" by the Kinks
Hmmm. The NR seems bent on portraying the Kinks as conservative. What I love about the Kinks is that they blow away orthodoxies of all stripes so that everyone can dance and mack on transvestites. But, shit, maybe the NR is on to something. I thought this song came off an album about the forced gentrification of town full of those common folk who the GOP loves to take up for, but heck. I think the Kinks ae fucking primo, so if this means more record sales for them then I say hell yeah.

11. "The Trees" by Rush
Snore! Ayn Rand surely spun in her grave everytime these nerdy Canucks rendered her philosophy into prog-rock twaddle. And of all the songs to assert as "great"..."The Trees?!" Really? Is that your final answer?

12. "Neighborhood Bully", by Bob Dylan
I know nothing about this song. I don't think I've ever heard it. Given it's Dylan, I imagine it's from one of his forgettable periods of output and that this is purely a desperate move to get a liberal icon on this list by any means necessary.

13. "My City Was Gone", by the Pretenders
Another song I've never heard. If it's really about "a Jane Jacobs sensibility against central planning," though, I'm not sure I want to hear it. I don't go to Chrissie Hynde for white papers.

14. "Right Here, Right Now", by Jesus Jones.
Part of the "history" the world was waking up from at the time this song came out? The Reagan years. Odd that a boisterous tune about the wide-open optimism of the Clinton years makes the list. But I guess even the GOP is coming around to wanting a piece of him, too.

15. "I Fought The Law", by the Crickets
Uhm. Obviously the National Review have never heard the song. Or else they're all big fans of Natural Born Killers now.

16. "Get Over It" by The Eagles
From the same songwriter who later rued seeing "a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac." This is the moment where you realize this list is heading into a black hole of twisted irony.

17. "Stay Together For the Kids" by Blink 182.
Uhm, Blink 182? John Kerry worshipping Blink 182? Really? Okay. But this is actually a song sung from the point of view of a kid who wish his parents would stop faking it and get divorced already. A curious, spurious choice.

18. "Cult of Personailty" by Living Color
The Bush administration IS a cult of personality! But, the singer says something bad about Stalin, so the song HAS TO BE THE NEXT BEST THING TO REAGANOMICS AND AIDS, RIGHT?

19. "Kicks", by Paul Revere and the Raiders
Before my time. Which is probably the point.

20. "Rock the Casbah" by the Clash
Blogga, PLEASE! This is a song about conflict in the Middle East getting solved by a really dope beat! If only!

21. "Heroes" by David Bowie
Bowie comes out against the Berlin Wall. Okay? You got that? He's on record. Berlin wall sucks! Okay! Is that clear!

22. "Red Barchetta" by Rush
All in all, a better choice than "The Trees" in that someone has actually heard this song. But, before we go down this Rush road any further, I would remind the National Review that Rush's libertarianism had limits: After all it is "the men who hold high places" who "must be the ones to start to mold a new reality closer to the heart." So, don't go making the government small enough to drown in the bathtub just yet.

23. "Brick" by Ben Folds Five
As Paul points out, this song really serves as a fantastic counterpoint to all those liberal songs that celebrate how awesome it is to take your girlfriend to the abortion clinic. I mean, it's gonna be fun fun fun until the OB/GYN takes the speculum away!

24. "Der Kommissar" by After The Fire.
Okay! Let it be said! The Republicans are hereby taking a brave stance against Kommissars! Here's my favorite part of the National Review's listing of this song. Apropos of nothing, they add: "Also a hit song for Falco, who wrote it." What? Was the piece a sentence short?

25. "The Battle of Evermore", by Led Zeppelin
Quoth the NR: "It's hard to miss the Cold War metaphor: 'The tyrant's face is red.'" Actually, it's really easy to miss that metaphor, given that this is a song by a bunch of drugged up nerds with elephantine cocks singing about FUCKING HOBBITS--unless, of course, you are a contributing editor for National Review tasked with finding five words of a Led Zeppelin song upon which conservatism can be tenuously hung.

NEXT: 26-50. It just gets WEIRDER.


Gibson said...

I never took any of those music classes in college and I've never played in a band, but I thought one of the chief attributes of rock music was that it specifically wasn't conservative, that it stuck it to the man, etc., etc.

These guys are idiots.

PK said...

So after 25 at-bats, the conservatives have Rush and Falco. And maybe Skynyrd.

Did you ever stop to think that maybe there's a good reason they took over AM radio?

Gibson said...

PS I am awaiting the ten random iPod songs list with breathless anticipation... do you accept requests?

Techne said...

Great post! Is it April fools day, what is wrong with these people? Rock music is founded on the least conservative impulse there is.

A. L. Deviant said...

I think the NR is trying, lamely, to implement the old adage: Keep your friends close, your enemies closer.

The sub textual sucking sound coming from the NR is deafening, truly. Well, except for the Rush and Falco choices. They can have'em.

Anonymous said...

You continue to take the NR piece entirely too seriously. It was meant as a joke (didn't the fact he included Revolution and the Battle of Evermore tip you off? I mean, the Battle of fucking Evermore?!). Also, you're reaching on a lot of your criticisms. How many times are you going to criticize a song selection by saying that the rest of their songs aren't conservative? So what? The Beastie Boys wrote some pretty misogynistic songs before trying to save Tibet, does that make "Girls" an feminist song?

And the Kinks are absolutely conservative. In a British nostaligia sort of way, certainly, but conservative nonetheless.

Anonymous said...

Oh and 20th Century Man is not on "The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society" (which I believe is what you were implying). It's off of Muswell Hillbillies.

The Deceiver said...

"You continue to take the NR piece too seriously..."

Uhm...wrong. It's pretty clear that I don't.

Red Line said...

This is fantastic. Thanks for posting about it; it would have been a shame to miss the NR article.

Anonymous said...

"Uhm...wrong. It's pretty clear that I don't."

Fair enough. I guess I should have said that you are attributing too much seriousness to the NR article, thus enabling you to mock it. Once you admit that the list was put together mostly as a joke, then the idea of ridiculing it as being a joke would seem to miss the point.

Red Line said...

You've really never heard "My City Was Gone"? I guess when you happen to spent much of your life in Ohio, you're exposed to radio stations that like to play songs featuring the line "I went back to Ohio".

I wonder when Chrissie Hynde hit her conservative apex. Perhaps it was early on, when she spent time in England with the early punk bands, or with the Talking Heads in New York. Or maybe more recently when she lent her support to notorious right wing organization PETA.

The Deceiver said...

I've heard that Jayhawks song about Ohio. I forget the title..."Somewhere in Ohio" I think?

Rusty said...

I admit I am troubled by your dismissal of "Wouldn't It Be Nice." That song is adorable.

joshowitz said...

That is really bizarre. Especially since it is easy to have a list of truly conservative-friendly songs.

It's like it is a list of liberal songs/song-writers that can be misconstrued to be conservative.

I'm surprised no Warren Zevon songs made the list. The Envoy should definitely be there.

Kevin said...

Seriously, I have a hard time believing that you haven't heard "My City Was Gone." Lyrics are below.

Oh, and for the record, there's a "remix" of it on the Small Soldiers soundtrack (w/ Kool Keith), which is one of the most unheralded soundtracks of all time.

(Even more amusing: when I googled this to get the lyrics (because I am not just going to sit here and type them out), a pop-up came up from that webpage which said, "Do you like George Bush? Answer to win a free dinner for two at The Olive Garden." I don't even have a joke here).
My City Was Gone:

I went back to Ohio
But my city was gone
There was no train station
There was no downtown
South Howard had disappeared
All my favorite places
My city had been pulled down
Reduced to parking spaces
A, o, way to go Ohio

Well I went back to Ohio
But my family was gone
I stood on the back porch
There was nobody home
I was stunned and amazed
My childhood memories
Slowly swirled past
Like the wind through the trees
A, o, oh way to go Ohio

I went back to Ohio
But my pretty countryside
Had been paved down the middle
By a government that had no pride
The farms of Ohio
Had been replaced by shopping malls
And muzak filled the air
From Seneca to Cuyahoga Falls
Said, a, o, oh way to go Ohio