Longtime Ball of Wax contributor Colin Ernst makes no bones about his sentiments with the satirical cowboy song, “The Lonesome American Fascist.” The song itemizes the atrocities committed by Americans throughout history in a familiar folk style, as in: “Home, home on the range / where I killed all the folks on the plains.” The is a simple song with just acoustic guitar and voice, “The Lonesome American Fascist” cuts right to the heart of the matter: American achievements built on the suffering of the less powerful.
Clocking in at a mere 1:19, “Racist Thief” packages up an anti-Trump screed as lo fi, arty bedroom punk. Acoustic guitar, glockenspiel, and voices are all the internet presenceless Hangry Hayrabs need to stage their protest song, decrying “You’re the color of a tangerine / You’re harboring a rotten spleen / Your liver is probably dirty swamp green.” By the time the refrain “daughter fucker, daughter fucker” enters the scene, the defiance blends with disdain as the band ratchets up their protest.
Hangry Hayrabs take the stage at the Ball of Wax 47 release show on Sunday – come check them out.
Holy crap, this song’s got it all! It’s like the the Digital Underground and Beck and the eighties and nineties. This song could easily be a protest song during the Reagan years as it is a protest song for today. That is, except for the references to the year 2016 and the internet. And guy’s got some rhymes! And some humor! Though it’s not necessarily funny what’s been going on these days. But this song is as much a riot as it’s a riot. And it’s pretty spot-on with both delivery and message.
James Kelly Pitts’s “Rich Kids” was one of the first submissions I received for this volume, just a couple weeks after I’d put out the call and barely a month after election day. It was clear that he had something he needed to get out there when he saw my e-mail, and get it out he did. There’s nothing subtle, coy, or playful about “Rich Kids.” It’s a dark, despairing vision of the mess we’re in, and a clear-eyed condemnation of the people who got us here. The chorus is altered slightly each time, beginning with the song’s only metaphor: “There’s a wolf outside the door . . .” and building to “Rich kids outside the door.” By the time you’ve reached the end of this brutal ballad, there’s no question as to which is more terrifying.
“He will die free and we’ll let him.” This is as much a protest song against others’ actions as it is a protest against our own failings which let others actions win out. This song implicates Henry Kissinger as well as ourselves as war criminals. We are not off the hook. Or so I gather. Virgin of the Birds‘ Jon Rooney keeps his words to a minimum in this song. Fittingly, his instrumentation is kept limited too, with a lightly strummed guitar and thick plonked piano chords occasionally arpeggiated. A thoughtful aside to events which seem to have spun out of control.
Make sure to get to the Ball of Wax 47 release show early on Sunday; Virgin of the Birds will start us off with a full-band set at 7:30 sharp.
Levi Fuller‘s “Promise You Will Fall” is a dark, foreboding song thick with venom and vitriol – towards whom one could easily imagine. The constant high pitched strokes on the two and four coupled with the constant thump of the lower droning notes further help paint a dark image. It plays like a ’90s grunge anthem. The vocals seem to linger in the background, lost in a plume of smoke and fog, but actively establishing a resistance. This is a ranting response of disgust to events; Levi’s words only begin to scrape the surface of some dark nasty toxic billowing sludge. Indeed, this song paints a dreary image of things recently past and things yet to come and a promise to not sit idly by and watch.
Levi and his band The Library will close out the Ball of Wax 47 release show this Sunday at the Sunset.
Louis O’Callaghan (see also The Graze, Sun Tunnels, Lux Fontaine, etc., etc.) rocks it on his protest song “Later Comrade.” This song channels Neil Young and beams it onto modern bearings. Loud crunchy guitars, a driving beat, thumping bass guitar, well-placed synth, and a wild vocal line that howls up, down, left, and right – all of this conveying a dumbfounded disbelief. Certain words shine out at the beginning and ends of phrases. “California,” “TV”, “entertainment.” “They don’t know what they’re doing.” And I cannot believe it either, comrade! This is a good song, flat out. Perhaps you could plug it into your cassette stereo while driving out across country to a march on the Washington monument.
Sam Parkin‘s appearance on Ball of Wax 47 is quite a serendipitous occurrence, stemming from a chance music recommendation by a Trader Joe’s checker who noticed my giant headphones and figured I probably liked music. I went and listened to Sam’s demo EP (available for whatever you feel like paying on Bandcamp) and was instantly won over by his intimate songs, powerful voice, and scrappy production values. I didn’t even notice the lyrical content, but when I reached out to Sam and suggested he submit a song to Ball of Wax sometime, it turned out there was resistance-and-rebuilding-relevant material on this very EP (as I’ve mentioned before, I am pretty terrible at noticing lyrics).
“Can’t Be Won Over,” written before the election results came in, is a reaction to the mounting apathy in our society and the damage it can create. Once we’ve won the fight against the current administration and all it stands for, we need to remain vigilant against apathy and complacency long into the future. I appreciate Sam for reminding us of this fact, and for doing so in such a gorgeously listenable fashion.
Sam will join us for a solo set at the Ball of Wax 47 release show this Sunday, 2/26 at the Sunset. I’m looking forward to meeting and hearing him play for the first time.
So this current wave of protest and resistance is inspiring and uplifting and badass and all that, but we all know that this shit didn’t start on November 8th, right? (Or even June 16, 2015.) People have been marching and pressing for justice for a long, long time, and even in the past few years some incredibly important movements have swept the nation and filled the streets to address serious, systematic injustices. (There was a reason I made the theme of Ball of Wax 38 protest songs way back in the fall of 2014.)
Kimya Dawson first shared “At the Seams” – her beautiful, heartbreaking ode to Black Lives Matter – a year and a half ago, but as I was putting this volume together I realized that it was a perfect, and necessary, fit for the theme of resistance and rebuilding. It doesn’t address our specific shitty situation, because it doesn’t need to. This shitty situation’s roots go way, way back (more on that later), and we need to do so much more to fix our country than get this fucking maniac out of the West Wing. I’ve already spent far too many words on this when what you should really be doing is clicking play below again and again until you’ve committed “At the Seams” to memory. This is important, and I’m so honored that Kimya let me include this song on Ball of Wax 47.
Less than two weeks after the unfortunate events of Election Day 2016 (and two weeks before I sent out the call for this volume of Ball of Wax), I received an email from Solvents with their response to the situation: A live demo version of “Song for President Trump (I’m Gonna Fight”). This song is straightforward and heartfelt, and feels like a perfect snapshot of the incredulity and defiance of that strange, dark moment in history. Of course I knew I had to have it for BoW 47, and I was delighted that Jarrod and Emily were able to record a studio version in time.
I’m looking forward to fighting alongside them at the Ball of Wax 47 release show this Sunday at the Sunset.