The Ramblings of a Gen Xer

Monday, November 2, 2020

Gen Xer Election Day Playlist

It's Election day, and to get in that political feel here is an assembly of the top-10 recommended tunes to take ya to the polls. If you have already voted, hell, download them anyway to get ya through the evening's fireworks. Enjoy! 

#10 - Green Day - "99 Revolutions"-  From the first lyrics "There's a trouble in the air. A rumble in the streets. A going out of business sale and a race to bankruptcy" to Billie Joe Amstrong's final lyrics" We live in troubled times From the ghettos to an empty suburban home", 99 Revolutions reflects the stalled American dream for countless folks, and the outrage that the 1% of this country should not rule our lives so we, the 99%, need to rise up against this iniquity. Fan or not of Green Day, this song is must listen in the countdown to the election. 99 Revolutions Live 

#9 - Billy Bragg -"Ideology" - Bragg's song places the spotlight on the "old men grinding axes" means of governing and politics that leaves the commonwealth demanding "a little more back from taxes like school books, beds in hospitals and peace in our bloody time".  As we saw both sides of the aisle squabble over the COVID stimulus bill that resulted in no relief for struggling Americans. "Ideology" provides a perfect musical narrative for us, The People, who need leaders and not career politicians. Billy Bragg

#8 - Muse - "Uprising" - Conspiracies abound! Qanon, the grassy knoll, 5G, Russian Agents killed Sean Connery, you name it, and it's a conspiracy. This is why Muse's "their out to get ya" song about the 1% keeping you under makes an appearance on this list. Although the song's intention vilifies an unknown power group and calls for action to rise against these "fat cats", there's a kinda a legitimacy behind the conspiracy narrative, and that's why it makes it this list. Muse Uprising 

#7 Creedence Clearwater Revival - "Fortunate Son" - Yeah, it's a cliche choice, I know, but why it makes it on this list is that Donald J Trump used this song during a rally. The song stands against everything this man stands for! The irony is so delicious and earns its place on the list based purely on this. New CCR

#6 Monsters and Men - "Dirty Paws" - Okay, this may be a surprise from this mopey hipster band (whom I secretly really like) but this song is pure poetry in narrative. There is a "civil war" over the freedom to fly between the birds and bees. The birds represent independence and free thinking whilst the bees represent authoritarianism and dogmatism. Queen Bee and her regiments of killing machines destroy all nature including the blackening of the forest (burning forest fires?). The birds retreat, but with the aid of a "dirty paws" and creatures of snow, fight back the bees and eventually win the ability to freely fly in any sky above. Deep shit, but in a symbolic narrative reflects a great civil struggle we've faced as Americans and now look to a leader to give us guidance and hope to overcome authoritarian rule. Dirty Paws 

#5 - Killing Joke - "I am the Virus" - Although written in 2015 and aimed right between George W Bush's eyes, the message in this industro-punk song fits perfectly for 2020. We hear "I am the fury. The spirit of outrage. I am the fire. I am the virus" as it is our message during the past four-years and the idea that there is a breaking point. It'll get you up early for voting. I am the Virus

#4 -Bruce Springsteen - "The Ghost of Tom Joad"- For those who may not be familiar with who Tom Joad is, he is the literary protagonist  found in the inspiring and oh so contemporary "The Grapes of Wrath" by Steinbeck. Now Springsteen wrote the song in 1995 to draw attention to the conditions surrounding Mexican immigrants (legal and illegal) struggles in trying find the American dream.  In 2020, we still see the struggles of these immigrants but also the obstacles facing all of us during these unprecedented times. That's why this song and the message of Tom Joad rings true for us.   "I'll be aroun' in the dark. I'll be everywhere-wherever you look. Wherever there is a fight so hungry people can eat, I'll be there. Wherever there is a cop beatin' up a guy, I'll be there...I'll be in the way kids laugh when they're hungry and they know supper's ready. An' when our folk eat the stuff they raise an' live in the houses they build—why, I'll be there. " The Ghost of Tom Joad

#3 - Sam Cooke - "Change is Gonna Come" - Whereas Springsteen's song speaks to the displaced, poor and hungry masses of America, this classic 1964 song speaks to one group and their struggles in America over the past 200 years. It became the anthem for the Civil Rights Movement and has as much power and inspiration for 2020.  Brilliance in it's biographic honesty. "There have been times that I thought I couldn't last for long. But now I think  I'm able to carry on. It's been a long, a long time coming. But I know a change  is gonna come, oh yes it will". Sam Cooke

Glorious Sons - "SOS" -  If you want to get a pulse on the frustration, fight for survival, inability to pay bills, hopelessness facing Americans, this song is perfect. It calls upon the lies, the superficial American dream, and the snake oil doled out to keep us dazed and confused. Why so high on this list?  It's a perfect 2020 anthem. It's our anthem for survival during these wild days which asks "who can I trust? Maybe people like us?" Sawed Off Shotgun 

#1 Childish Gambino - "This is America" -  It's a song about guns and violence in America. It's about the constant struggle of African Americans in America. It's about the distractions used to make us forget the problems in America. It's about cultural violence of pop culture in America. It's about everything we've had to suck down and digest in America over the past 4 years. The video is beautiful yet ugly in imagery. It should move you. This is America. Childish Gambino 

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Recapturing The Sweet Bird of Anthem

On Monday, it was ripping sounds and lyrics:

They're piling in the back seat.  They're generating steam heat.  Pulsating to the back beat. The blitzkrieg bop

By Sunday it was a group from Ireland reflecting civil war:

And the battle's just begun.There's many lost, but tell me who has won? The trench is dug within our hearts. And mothers, children, brothers, sisters torn apart 

The Ramones' Blitzkrieg Bop. U2's Sunday Bloody Sunday. The Cure's Head on the Door. Echo and the Bunnymen's Killing Moon, and many more. These were the Sweet Birds of Gen X youth anthems that moved and made sense to me. They were the angst. They were the songs that echo rebellion. They were the songs that defined, designed and defied in my youthful mind. 

By the time the "Jesus Years" rolled around (the Jesus Years is the time from age 30 to 39 in which a young adult professes who they are and what their calling is, or have a good sense of it), these anthems were forgotten, or, worse, the idea of having anthems to reflect time and space wasn't adulting now. If one had anthems during these times, they were generally background noise, heard over the radio, or retro-fixes with now-warped mix-tapes of the"good ol' shit" found at the bottom of moving boxes played over the now-out-of-date cassette player. 

But these were now serious times. Some of us got married and had children. Some of us took well-paying jobs that retired our rock 'n' roll dreams. Some of us moved away and started a new identity elsewhere. All of us became adults, and, by doing so, we began to discover ourselves through these professions. These testimonials now became who and what we are: "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things" (1 Corinthians 13:11). So our Sweet Bird of Anthems we paraded around to in our youth, were now put away in the discovery of our adult selves. 

As Gen Xers started moving closer to the Jesus Years exit signs, our lives began to show a different direction we were heading towards. Those married were now divorced and single parents struggling to make ends meet. Those who took well-paying jobs burned out and ended up opening up small businesses. Those who moved away came back home,  but nobody remember who they were, so they had to restart another new identity.  Our confessed professions were just that. Professions. We professed, but it was not who we thought we were. Those childish ways: disillusioned, angst-filled, rejecting of status quo, mistrusting, cynical of establishments, and dystopian, weren't thrown out but laying at the bottom of the moving boxes with the mixed-tapes. 

But did our old anthems to get us through it? We loaded our iPods with them, but, unlike the Boomers who live in denial and nostalgia, the music didn't resonate anymore.  Sure the music reflected the childish ways, but the feelings were now seasoned with adulthood. It wasn't hard to figure it out. The music of our Gen X youth wasn't relevant to us anymore. 

Sad ending? Oh hell no. The Blank Generation is a resourceful and creative lot. We started finding new anthems that reflected our lives. We expanded our tastes in music and found different artists that were writing songs and lyrics relatable to our current situations. With songs like Drive By Truckers, Jason Isbell's Outfit: 

You want to grow up to paint houses like me.  A trailer in my yard till you're twenty three.  You want to be old after forty two years. Keep dropping the hammer and grinding the gears

Green Day's X-Kid: 

I once was old enough to know better, man, but I was too young to care. Many cares, probably would, but Hollywood is dead and gone.

We were reunited with the love of making soundtracking to our lives. Like those days with SONY Walkmans with cassette mix tapes, we once again walk around with our indestructible iPods jacked in with non-wireless ear plugs listening to the music we understand in our now middle-age lives. And understand with conviction because we sought it out on our own. 

Gen Xers aren't those dweebs driving around in a convertibles blasting Bob Seger, or the tuned-out texting hipster poser with wireless earplugs. Gen Xers are spottable because we are the ones in deep-thought, walking at a slacker with purpose pace, creating our own real-time private videos through the music blasting in our headphones. 

Yes, we've digitalized our mix tapes and listen to the "oldies" as well. I mean there's nothing like a cut from the Ramones' Pleasant Dreams or Clash's Sandinista! to start the day off. But we've learned to not live in the music through nostalgia but by appreciation of these musicians and their contribution to not only the music world but to our own lives. They did help shape us. They did give meaning in a world that didn't give a rat's ass about us (and still doesn't). They were an anthem for our youths, and we were proud of that sound. 

But here we are, 21st Century, and, ironically, the institutions have still let us down. Social establishments have still failed us. The world has gotten more cynical and more dystopian since we were 21. We may have had to put aside some of those childish ways due to adulting, but what we didn't give up on was the love of music and how it plays an important part of our lives. Because, as children and now adults, music is all we have to help us understand the world around us no matter if it was 1984 or 2020. 

And that is how Gen X recaptured the Sweet Bird of Anthems.