Photo by The EvensFor the last six years, every time I’ve read the news or discussed current events, I’ve vacillated between anger, depression, outrage, resignation and total powerlessness. I knew from the outset that Bush would be bad for this country, but I had no idea how virulently bad. I knew having Republicans in control of all three branches of governments would set us back, but I couldn’t foresee quite the extent of the damage. Whether it’s been committed internationally, socially, environmentally, economically, militarily—just to name a few—it’ll take a long, long time to undo this recent legacy.
A lot of musicians, artists and writers have responded of course, with increasing frequency and varying degrees of success. I mean, how do you tackle an administration so historically massive without historical distance? How do you make incisive criticisms without simplifying your message or dampening your art form? It’s a heady challenge for any artist, but then Ian MacKaye has been charging headfirst at the establishment since the first Reagan presidency. From Minor Threat to Embrace to Fugazi and now The Evens, he’s never been afraid to speak/scream his mind. From the outset, he’s been unabashedly political and anti-materalist, never toning down the sound or message for mainstream consumption. So if there’s anyone’s musical take I’d like to hear on Bush, MacKaye would be right up there. (A few others I’d look forward to: M.I.A., Sonic Youth, El-P, the Books).
Fortunately, just in time for another election cycle, MacKaye is back to protest again. Reteaming with former Warmers drummer (and his girlfriend) Amy Farina, he takes on Bush in a number of ways. The best and cleverest approach is on closer “Dinner With The President.” There, MacKaye and Farina personalize the Commander-in-Chief’s unwelcoming nature rather than keeping it macroscopic. It’s not his inattention to Sudan or his failure to reach bipartisan compromise, but the fact that he hasn’t invited them to dinner that really troubles them. “Available, but they’re not calling me/ I live in town, it’s not geography,” MacKaye intones, sounding vaguely hurt and maybe even surprised. Then they hypothesize what could be behind the snub: “Maybe we don’t have any common interests/ maybe we don’t speak the same tongue/ maybe power lies in inaccessibility/ Maybe power lies.”
The duo isn’t as subtle on earlier songs such as “Everybody Knows,” which subs the metaphors for straight-up calling out. MacKaye even gets his ire up to late-Fugazi levels, exclaiming, “You’re fired!,” “Everybody knows you are a liar,” and most poignantly, “Let the door hit you on the ass.” It’s something I’d find obnoxious out of a lot of other people’s mouths (Michael Franti, Ani DiFranco, anyone at Lilith Fair) but it somehow sounds right here. Farina, who really emerges as a full presence on this album, sounds so joyful and excited about expelling the President. And MacKaye, more than twenty-five years at the forefront of the underground, still sounds so cool when he’s losing his cool. Because, while it may not be the most sophisticated emotion, after the chaos that’s been wrought on this country (and a few others), sometimes all you want to do is get even.
* MP3: "Dinner With The President" - The Evens from Get Evens
* MP3: "Everybody Knows" - The Evens from Get Evens [Buy it]
* Band Website: The Evens
Tags: The Evens, Ian MacKaye, Get Evens, Amy Farina, George Bush, Dischord, MP3