Levi and his Library declare “I Won’t Go to Mexico,” a song set in the Mexican-American War and told from the perspective of a defiant potential conscript who decries “I have no wish to participate / in such glorious butcheries” and “As long as I can work, beg, or go to the poorhouse / I won’t go to Mexico.” As with much of Levi and the Library’s recent music, “I Won’t Go to Mexico” starts off with gentle, looping strumming then builds to a rumbling rock snowball in the style of Dinosaur Jr. or Built to Spill.
Levi locates a seemingly modern perspective on unjust war and colonialism in the conscience of a young man in Massachusetts who, over 160 years ago, wrote an anonymous letter to the newspaper in Cambridge that’s carefully mined for the lyrics to “I Won’t Go to Mexico.” That young man also wrote “Human butchery has had its day. . . . And the time is rapidly approaching when the professional soldier will be placed on the same level as a bandit, the Bedouin, and the Thug.” While an admirable sentiment, one can imagine the horror he felt at the bloodshed of the US Civil War and, for his sake, hope that he never lived to see the mechanical menace and death delivered by the Twentieth Century in the first World War. With “I Won’t Go to Mexico,” Levi taps deep into the vein of American pacifism to craft a protest song that really stands out in his lengthy body of work.