Jon of All Trades

Workout Song of the Moment #4

Workout Song of the Moment #4

Since my fat ass has actually been going to the gym consistently, I’ve had to add several songs to my workout rotation. What will follow is a periodic update of whichever song has given me added juice on the lifting machines or elliptical trainer. Download these yourselves and enjoy.

“Let Us Hear Your Voice” – Pennywise

When I was growing up, I was far more attracted to punk rock’s aesthetic than its ideology. As a reasonably happy upper-middle class kid from the suburbs with good parents, the constant haranguing about the ills of society mostly fell flat for me, so I avoided bands like Propaghandi, Bad Religion, and Pennywise.

At some point early in the new millennium, all punk bands became political thanks in large part to the 2004 Fat Wreck Cords release of Rock Against Bush Vol. 1. Basically all of the bands I liked appeared either on this release, or the subsequent follow-up four months later. Since everyone was political now, basically no one was anymore. The distinction of “political punk” was dead, and that’s probably for the best.

So here we are in 2013, I’m unhappy at work, and I need to BRING THE LOUD. So I find this new Pennywise song called “Let Us Hear Your Voice” and it’s a goddamn earworm. I can’t pinpoint why, but it just finds its way into my heart, and I listen to it several times a day.

It’s only when I’m frustrated listening to some fucking new indy band on the way to work that it hits me. Fewer and fewer bands just plain old ROCK anymore, at least in the realm of reasonably accessible music. Every band sounds like it could play over the end credits of Juno these days.

This Pennywise cut is instant nostalgia because it sounds pretty much exactly like any of their tracks from 1998. You could slip this into the album Full Circle and never know it didn’t belong.

What’s interesting is that while the Pennywise aesthetic hasn’t appreciably changed, the world around them has. Check out these lyrics:

We don’t want your laws.
So take ’em back right now.
They’re bullshit anyhow.
It’s time we had our say.
The injustice cannot stay.
They stabbed us in the back.

Uh huh. 1998 – totally valid, if a bit perfunctory, left-leaning, anti-rules call to action. 2013 – Tea Party anthem, am I right? Am I crazy, or does the railing against “bullshit laws” and claims of injustice and backstabbing by our own government sound more right wing these days than the traditionally situated leftness of punk bands? Furthermore:

So let us hear your voice.
They said we have a choice.
But I don’t believe
They really meant it so.
We’re gonna call their bluff
‘Cause we have had enough.
Take the power back.
The foundation’s gonna crack.

Hmmm. I grant that could just as easily be the message of the Occupiers as it could a bunch of gun-toting Tea Partiers, but what kills me is how close those two groups sit in the ideological spectrum without realizing it. And they hate each other even though they both claim to want to uproot the system wholesale and “take the power back.”

The point is, while the world has changed dramatically in a decade and a half, Pennywise’s message largely has not, which makes this song both anachronistic, and just plain confusing. Whenever I engage with the lyrics in a more pointed way than I usually do on the elliptical machine, I give myself a chuckle because it seems like Pennywise is writing political punk using a book of Mad Libs and nothing more.

That doesn’t detract from this song’s overall RAWKNESS, but I don’t think it means good things for learning to engage in the political system thanks to music.

Enjoy!

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4 Comments

  1. Brad April 9, 2013 at 10:15 am

    WTF!? This blog title has more than one word in it!

    • Jon Eks April 9, 2013 at 12:40 pm

      This series is an exception.

  2. Lee S. Hart April 9, 2013 at 10:58 am

    I think the notion you hit on here about just how thin of a line really exists between political ideals and how these often go back and forth over time is right on, but I would also like to add this idea in a bit of a defense of Pennywise, not that they actually need to be defended here but I digress. You point out, and many of us have this notion about punk bands being left leaning. With things like Rock Against Bush and the whole anti-Reagan stuff it is easy to pin that left label on punk in general. But if you recall, and as you touch on, Pennywise gained popularity in the Clinton era, still singing these anti-government songs. To me that says Pennywise is sticking to the old punk ideals of anarchy. And if you look at through the anarchy lens then these lyrics all seem to fit also demonstrating the initial thin line and just how there really is no perfect political system. Pennywise’s message has not changed because whatever political changes have occurred they are still the opposite of the anarchy ideas, and those ideas are always going to align with the opposition of the political party in charge.

    I fully agree that the song does in fact “rawk.”

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