Politics: A Musical Take

Tis the season for political analysis. I have decided that this blog shouldn’t really miss out on all of that. After all, anyone with opinions will have something to say about this year’s matchup (and I’ve show my tendency toward opinions so far). But, I decided it was important to preface any political examination with an explanation of my musical tastes.

I listen to fairly left-wing music. This is a fact that I can’t dispute. Radiohead, The Decemberists, and Arcade Fire all support generally liberal views, with the latter two groups having shown public support for Barack Obama in this election season.

In a general sense, most conservative music appears in Christian rock and country music. I have use for Christian rock (which sounds like derivative nonsense), and I utterly loathe country. Particularly, the southern drawl and guitar “twang” featured in every country song manage to push me away, ears bleeding.

I am a Republican. I support small government, traditional viewpoints, and not Barack Obama.

This seems to present two problems. Firstly, it is very commonplace for bands to introduce their political views through musical means. In my recent review of Dear Science, I noted that political protest appears. In a general sense, this is TV on the Radio arguing against the war in Iraq. However, not all instances of ideological commentary are as blunt as this or any action taken by Green Day. Arcade Fire uses their platform to preach about conditions in Haiti, and Radiohead work to advance movements in environmentalism and Tibetan affairs. Often, this requires more engagement for the listener (sometimes paying attention to particular events attended by the band), but the undertones are still present even in general album releases. If my views are so separate from the bands I enjoy, then how can I not walk away disgusted with their message?

The second problem I run into is my interaction with seemingly conservative music. Country music stands as my least favorite type of music – even more so than rap. The intense pain caused by the twang of a guitar or the ignorant singing drawl of a stereotypical southerner is unbearable. I simply cannot understand how normal humans can enjoy this junk. I liken the experience to that of the Martians in the film Mars Attacks – my head feels like it will literally explode. Christian rock is not much better, offering all the sounds of Nickelback (surely the worst band on the face of the earth) with self-righteous content that imposes an ideology upon all listeners. I’m a Catholic, but I understand that not everyone will want to hear about my religious views. This same theory should apply to obnoxious Christian groups.

So how do I continue being a music fan? I recognize artistic merit. This is something that is lost upon those who look for only political statements. My love of Radiohead is not rooted in their concern over global warming. Instead, their mind-blowing instrumental skills and boundless innovative imaginations work to bring me into their fold. Similarly, I will listen to Green Day for the catchy pop hooks and fun punk style.

Do I object to the views of Radiohead or The Decemberists? Yes I do. If this were to be a primarily political blog, I’d discuss the insane nature of Obama’s economic vision, and the actually sound ideology behind McCain’s foreign policy views. It is my goal to further incorporate this sort of commentary in the future, but with an effort to keep this a music-based space. That said, the subtitle of Essential Listening is “Music and Other Such Nonsense.” I guess it’s time for the future to contain more nonsense.

But to sum this up: my political views don’t get in the way of my musical tastes. If the next Arcade Fire release specifically denounces the very nature of the conservative movement but still has stunning vocal and instrumental work, I’ll give it a solid score. Even the lyrics may be meritorious. Saying something in an innovative way (whether or not it’s something I agree to) is always appreciated. Here at Essential Listening, the music comes first, but we’ll discuss the implications too.