I don’t often write music reviews. I like what I like and I figure others are pretty much the same. Musical tastes are as varied as people, after all. I’m a child of the 80’s in music, who underwent a distinct broadening of tastes as I grew older from New Wave to New Age, Progressive, Punk, metal rock, classic rock, light jazz, Folk Music, Latin, classical music, Celtic, Asian, African – a distinct smattering of World Beat. I’ll give anything a try once — even Rap (didn’t stick, tho). But I grew up listening to my mother’s music: the Beatles, Roberta Flack, Don McLean, Carly Simon, Jim Croche, James Taylor, Joan Baez and Cat Stevens. Music to think by. Yet my brother and I taught her about Album Rock – explained Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” to her so she wasn’t so outraged over the song “Another Brick in the Wall Part 1″. I like to think I’ve been fairly muscially diverse over the years since, yet I’m still hanging on the fringes of popular rock – I still prefer what they brand as Alternative music these days.
But I simply have to rec this album to everyone.
Not because I’ll listen to it over and over and bop to it while driving down the road on a daily basis… because I won’t.
But because it made my throat go tight. It made my heart ache in my chest and my eyes prickle. And it even made me sing along to the songs I know so well — and love so much — despite the twisted form they’ve taken here.
Maybe you’ve heard APC and Maynard James Keenan’s slow dirge-like cover of John Lennon’s Imagine. Perhaps you were outraged, as I first was, when I heard it. A song of hope and peace and looking forward… turned into something dark and sinister and cynical. I love their version now too, even though it hurts so much to hear it each and every time…
Because isn’t that what happened to Lennon’s dream? Isn’t that what’s happened to the bright underlying promise of the 60’s… the hope for peace and equality and understanding has become crushed by greed and fear and self-interest.
Maynard and Co. don’t stop there, however. The whole album is a scathing repudiation of American apathy that unfortunately won’t get the airplay of Green Day’s bouncy, catchy “American Idiot”. And it should. But only as a whole album. And only with the Crisis Hotlines fully manned. It’s depressing as hell, poignant and heart-rending, this album. As a whole as well as individually — but mostly as a whole. It really needs to be listened to that way. To hear Elvis Costello’s “Peace Love and Understanding” turned into a lament, Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” into a frightened wail and Devo’s “Freedom of Choice” into a mocking ridicule – followed by the public domain but made famous by Led Zeppelin “When the Levee Breaks” – all of it chilling, lamentory and dark.
It clubs you over the head with each song choice, each startling arrangement and with Maynard’s delicious voice twisted in ever so many disturbing ways. That fear is wrong, that letting others tell you how to live is cowardice, that war is evil and that hope… hope is hard to find these days. It’s a warning that you truly have to think for yourself and keep an open mind.
Wake up, America. Listen. This entire album is a dirge for freedom, hope and peace.
And no, it’s not easy to listen to. But it shouldn’t be. This is a challenge – a rub-it-in-your-face kind of one – to thinking people to wake up and look around them again.
Unfortunately, the ones who need to hear this the most — aren’t going to listen. They’ll only hear the surface; and looking for escapism, they’ll miss the whole point.