Music has always been a reliable outlet for protest in turbulent times. At least, it used to be. It’s been a while since commercially released music embraced the spirit of protest. From the 1960s to the late 1980s, a protest or “issue” song that addressed everything from war to the environment to equal rights to government corruption could be found somewhere on the pop charts courtesy of a broad collection of major artists from Creedence Clearwater Revival to Marvin Gaye to the Sex Pistols to Frankie Goes to Hollywood.
Starting in the 1990s, when major labels consolidated into today’s corporate monoliths, music that overtly criticized social issues protest music started to decline. By the 2000s, message music disappeared entirely as pop artists learned not to risk their livelihood by taking a stand on something, not when Fox News and an invisible army of Internet trolls stood ready to shame and shout down anyone who dared criticize power and by definition didn’t “support the troops” (otherwise known as getting the "Dixie Chicks treatment").
Fortunately, independent artists have always been more bold in expressing and supporting their worldview through their artistic and financial efforts. The newest entry into this ongoing collection is Chicago Artists Against Trump, an album that takes direct aim at the most controversial elected official in US history. This is a compilation of alternative Pop and avant garde Jazz tracks from Chicago bands adding their sounds to the many, many voices of resistance all over the country and world.
The album’s lineup includes Not for You’s guitar-powered “Big Pharma” and Galaxxu’s free-jazz freak-out “Trumpster Fire.” There’s also a contribution from Chicago No-Wave legends ONO, whose elliptical “USAWorld” artfully contributes to the ongoing conversation about race in America. This is not an album of hippy folk songs and parody lyrics. The bands use dissonance, distortion, and the force of their playing skills in creating sonic spaces of dissent where words are not needed.
The specific raison d’etre for this album concerns our current President’s history of sexual assaults against women. Static Switch, a new label whose mission is “pushing the boundaries of art and celebrating those who do,” is giving 100% of all the proceeds from this record to Rape Victim Advocates (RVA), an independent not-for-profit organization that provides a range of services to victims of sexual assault. By committing their financial as well as creative efforts to a worthy cause, this album’s participants prove that the act of using music to speak out is far from dead. It might, in fact, be just beginning a major comeback.
Listen to CHIRP...