Who’s Gonna Take Away His License to Kill?

I wasn’t sure I’ll have something to write about this topic this week. I could think of some songs, but I wasn’t sure I could pull off an opening for the topic of Power and Responsibility. Of course, as we all know, power corrupts, and turns people who hold too much power for too long irresponsible. But I preferred not to engage with clichés. However, reality provided. This is the 12th consecutive year in which Israeli-Palestinian peace NGOs—namely Combatants for Peace and the Parents Circle Families Forum—hold a binational memorial service for casualties on both sides. It is one of the most emotional and significant events I ever had the privilege to attend, and it’s been growing by the year, bringing together Israelis and Palestinians to call to end the occupation, the hostilities, and the violence. Like in many years before, the service was criticized by right-wing groups in Israel, and a counter-protest was held outside the venue. Unlike past years, however, the counter-protest was more than just a protest. People who opposed the service followed people who attended it to their cars, threatening them, cursing them, spitting at them and sought a reason to get violent. The Israeli minister of education, Naftali Benet (a right-wing member of parliament) tweeted on the topic, but instead of condemning such behavior he claimed that the attendees “can handle it” thus implying that they also deserve it. This misuse of power, from an elected member of government and the minister of education, no less, represents accurately what we’re talking about when discussing power and responsibility. An elected official gets his power from the public, and is therefore responsible to the entire public—even to those who would rather give this power to someone else, and even people he does not agree with. This explicit violation of this responsibility has a name—it’s called corruption.

The Kinks—Powerman 

Mainly known for the musical hooks and catchy tunes, the Kinks are also fantastic lyricists. It is therefore no wonder that they manage to cover our entire topic in a single song that remains catchy and fun and even somewhat lighthearted. Taken from their 1970 album “Lola Versus the Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One” (an album that contains most of my favorite Kinks songs), “Powerman” is a protest song against the power and influence possessed—and bought—by the upper class. The first three verses are quite generic, but in the last verse the Kinks finally point the finger at the owners of record labels, singing that “He’s got my money and my publishing rights // but I’ve got my girl and I’m alright // And she got me going, and she keeps me sane // but powerman, powerman, got money on the brain.”

 Kanye West—POWER 

Kanye released “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantast” in 2010, and that album remains—in my humble opinion—his magnum opus to this very day. “POWER” was the first single released from the upcoming album, giving a sneak peek into Kanye’s new musical style and proving once again that he is the biggest name in hip-hop (circa 2010) and one of the most interesting musicians in the world, as he truly reinvents himself anew with each and every release. “POWER”, however, was also somewhat personal and self-referential. After a few too many so-called “Kanye moments”, the rapper decided that it might be time to tackle his own demons—which he generally did in the album, but specifically in the tune in question. “No one man should have all that power” Kanye keeps reasserting throughout the song, and samples King Crimson’s “21st Century Schizoid Man” for emphasis, really pushing his message through.


Tears for Fears—Everybody Wants to Rule the World

It was never easy for me to take Tears for Fears seriously. But still, they are such a musical landmark and so representative of the New Wave 80’s sound, that I can’t truly hate on them either. Also, I do secretly love some of their songs in a non-ironic manner, but let’s just keep that between us, right? Few of their songs, however, are as anthemic as “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”. In spite of the random—and mildly racist—video clip, the song still provides a decent (even if slightly obvious) reflection on the aspiration for power. And even though I add it to this week’s list with some tongue-in-cheek, it’s actually a good song and can be offered with a slightly more serious interpretation, as the Lorde excellent cover version suggests.

Jesse Winchester—Step by Step

Jesse Winchester’s “Step by Step” is a great piece of southern blues-rock. It also discusses the matter of corruption in a somewhat metaphorical way: “cause Jacob’s golden ladder // gets slippery at the top // and many a happy-go-lucky saint // has made that long, long drop”. It is exactly that metaphor that got this song picked for the finale episode of The Wire’s first season. Being possibly the best TV series to ever critically deal with political systems that are rotten to the core with corruption, The Wire also happens to have a great soundtrack, and that won Jesse Winchester a spot on this week’s list.


The Beatles—Taxman 

The Beatles’ 1966 album “Revolver” is one of the band’s most interesting album, as it lies exactly on the cusp between the pop music stage of the Liverpool Four and their psychedelic pop era. In that, it opens with a catchy, rock-n’-roll-y, and yet extremely critical tune “Taxman”. Somewhat of a hybrid between Wincheter’s “Step by Step” and the Kinks’ “Powerman”, “Taxman” is a slightly-whimsical yet potent protest song against tax collection authorities and how they make people’s lives miserable. Another thing that makes it wonderful is how it is constantly updated in live versions, mentioning politicians or adding more verses, just like in this fantastic version by George Harrison and Eric Clapton.

More songs:

Elvis Presley—Only the Strong Survive https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TxbkXLEcKqA

Leonard Cohen—The Future https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rH1XTOBF0YQ

Timber Timbre—Do I Have Power? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZwPMj5OwvA

Bob Dylan—Masters of War https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2mabTnMHe8

Huey Lewis & the News—Power of Love https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KCkgYhtz64U


‘All Along the Watchtower’

Intelligence and espionage so often seems to be something from another world, from a film or a spy novel, but it actually governs our lives, to an extent, both as fiction and as a determinant of our political reality. You are  invited to join in this musical perspective on spying and intelligence.


Nancy Sinatra—You Only Live Twice 

Bond songs are iconic for multiple reasons. The movies are not expected to be any good—nor do they take themselves seriously—but the opening songs play a huge part in them and therefore are truly expected to be good music. Which is, perhaps, why the get such a grand stage. Think of it: do you know any other movie—let alone a series of movies—that has 3, 4, or even 5-minute long openings, in which the theme song is played in its entirety? I can’t think of one. And the opening sequence, that’s another thing: full of tacky, semi-risqué graphics all edited to fit the music. But it’s also that grand musical style—that Phil Spector “Wall of Sound” that attacks the senses and doesn’t let go, the trumpets going “BWAAAH” or the sweeping string sections. Nancy Sinatra’s You Only Live Twice is a great indicator of this unique, iconic style. In fact, so iconic it is, that it was remixed for Robbie Williams’ Millenium and its Bond-esque video clip.

Paul McCartney and Wings—Live and Let Die

If Nancy Sinatra (see above) and Shirley Bassey (see below) shaped, to a great extent, the Bond sound, it’s also important to note that Bond songs have evolved along the years—while keeping intact a certain melodic-dramatic signature. And indeed, Bond songs have evolved alongside pop music, and the what pop music meant in each decade. In the 1970’s the grand production made way to rock music with a slight hint of psychedelia, and who was able to make a better job at writing a catchy tune along those lines than former Beatle, (now Sir) Paul McCartney? Being the mainstream, heart of the consensus, Beatle, McCartney, together with Wings, wrote Live and Let Die to accompany Roger Moore’s first Bond film. This time, the brass instruments and the string sections were tossed aside for a guitar solo that shaped the sound of rock music for years to come—as we learn from the famous cover version from Guns n’ Roses.

Duran Duran—A View to a Kill 

But soon enough the 1970’s were over, and it was time for Roger Moore to hang his Walther PPK and hand the keys to the Aston Martin to the next in line—Timothy Dalton. The 1985 A View to a Kill was Moore’s last Bond film, and this one had all the characteristics one can expect from the high-noon of the 1980’s. A neon-y, glow-in-the-dark heavy-makeup opening credits scene, rocked by Duran Duran’s A View to a Kill (which, incidentally, has its own video clip—this one containing scenes from the iconic Eiffel Tower chase scene). This song has everything that was great about 80’s New Wave music: synthesizers, heavy bass, electric drums, the occasional gunshot sound effect, and an emotional plea to “dance into the fire”. A classic.


In fact, Bond music became so popular, and so iconic, that even alternative bands started throwing their hats to the music ring. Garbage, who did the theme song for The World is Not Enough are a great example of late 90’s counter culture. The same goes for the somewhat awkward, yet pleasing, collaboration between the White Stripe’s Jack White and Alicia Keys recorded for A Quantum of Solace. So in 2015 it was finally time for Radiohead, perhaps the most beloved and successful alternative band in the world today, to have their shot and record the title track for Spectre. While the song was eventually rejected by the filmmakers (for Sam Smith’s Writing’s on the Wall), Radiohead released it as a single—and an extremely beautiful one at that. Very Radiohead-y, the song contains Thom Yorke’s unique vocals and the band’s beautiful chaotic musical style, while still living up to Bond music standards, being catchy, melodic, dramatic and suspenseful. I do hope that the filmmakers realize the mistake they made rejecting such a massive tune.

Johnny Rivers—Secret Agent Man 

The only non-Bond song in our top five this week is Johnny Rivers’ Secret Agent Man. Recorded for the American broadcast the British TV-Show Danger Man, the song became an instant success, peaking at #3 in the Billboard Top 100 list. However it’s not the Americana interpretation of spying that won this song its place in this week’s list, but its immortalization in the first Austin Powers movie. This series of fantastic James Bond parodies definitely deserves its spot in our list, and since Madonna’s Beautiful Stranger is not available online in a friendly version, I decided to go with this instead. Oh, and also because of the fantastically creepy Devo cover.


Shirley Bassey—Diamonds Are Foreverhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qPeSPB68i2c

Coldplay—Spies https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iku5Ki2z7p8

Stan Ridgway—Camouflage https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UXKIBYnM_9Q

Bauhaus—Spy in the Cab https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LN53bSlCqqI

Minimal Compact—The Traitor https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8MzJ86eCbGA


I Shall Be Released—Anti Establishment pt. II

In the previous anti-Establishment playlist I had an opportunity to say pretty much all I wanted to say about anti-Establishment and the music associated with me. To remind you, I focused on early anti-Establishment music, using 1980 as the year that marks the transition between old and new. And while this point was picked almost arbitrarily, I still think one can see an actual difference in the sound and content material with which the songs are concerned. The later anti-Establishment songs start getting more specific, and more explicit, but perhaps more noticeably they become less optimistic, less utopian, and more harsh for the listener as far as lyrics are concerned but also as far as the use of noise. Try to keep this in mind while listening to this playlist, which I hope you will enjoy.

DJ Shadow—Nobody Speak (Feat. Run the Jewels)


Few recent collaborations were as refreshing and energetic as this great tune from DJ Shadow featuring the duo Run the Jewels (Killer Mike and El-P). As all three musicians have a tendency to be very politically outspoken and to spare no criticism towards the establishment, this had to be a great one. In fact, DJ Shadow was so certain he needed the vocal abilities and general vibe of the duo, that he announced that this song would not have happened without them—meaning that had RtJ refused the collaboration, this song would never have seen the light of day. I guess it’s good news for us that they agreed after all. The video further drives home the general atmosphere of the song: it features a UN-type assembly that turns into an all-out brawl where the politicians and state representatives fight each other with whatever weapons the can find, thus portraying the establishment as these three talented musicians truly see it.

Rage Against the Machine—Killing in the Name of

This is probably not the most outspoken song Rage Against the Machine has ever recorded. It’s probably not the most political, not the most subversive, outrageous, radical song this fine group of musicians has released. But it became such an anthem, that I couldn’t pick any other song for this list. When it came out, this song swept across nations and age groups, and became one of the best end-of-the-party tunes I have ever encountered in my years as a DJ. The fact that RAtM managed to get even the most spoiled, obedient, upper-class, goodie-two-shoes child to scream at the top of his lungs ‘F**k you I won’t do what you tell me’ is already uncanny. Add to that the fact that even today, 26 years after its release it still makes every man in the ages of 15 to 60 jump up and down and push people around likes a person possessed, makes this, perhaps, the best anti-establishment song of all times.


Public Enemy—Fight the Power

Public Enemy remains, to this day, one of the most iconic groups in hip-hop history, one that truly shaped the genres in its dense sound, its utilization of samples and scratch music, and of course its uncompromising lyrics. In that, Fight the Power is not merely an anti-establishment anthem but a defining moment in pop culture—one that marks the beginning of incorporation of African-American protest music and iconography into the mainstream. The video for fight the power is full of references to African-American resistance to racism and persecution: the Black Panther-like dancers, the posters of Martin Luther King and other leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, and of course the lyrics.

Kanye West—New Slaves


Twenty-three years after Public Enemy, Kanye West released Yeezus. Now, personally, I wasn’t a big fan of the album as a whole—or at least I thought it was far inferior to what I to-this-day consider Kanye’s magnum opus: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. However, songs like New Slaves stand up and create the iconic moments of this album. This is an exceptionally perceptive piece, resisting racism and the establishment that molds it, and ends in one of the most beautiful crescendo’s designed by the brilliant producer who is Kanye West (namely the way he samples Omega’s ‘The Gill with the Pearl’s Hair’).

Tracy Chapman—Talkin’ bout a Revolution


If all the songs in this list go to show how the sound of anti-establishment music has changed throughout the year, this song should be an exception. Indeed, I always get confused with Tracy Chapman. There’s something almost idiosyncratic about her music—on the one hand it seems like it belongs in the late 60’s / early 70’s, and on the other hand it is almost entirely timeless. It is still mindboggling to me that the lion share of her creation took place in the late 80’s to early 90’s—a period of hip-hop, synth-pop, thrash metal and grunge, sure, but not so much of singer-songwriters and troubadours. In what is without a doubt her most iconic song, Chapman presents a bleak image of hardworking people who know they are being mistreated, and yet they only talk about a revolution and even that is done in a whisper.


Muse—Uprising https://youtu.be/w8KQmps-Sog

Fortis-Saharof—Me’atzvei Da’at Ha’Kahal (Shapers of Public Opinion) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-w3Gqyul4I

Franz Ferdinand—Demagogue https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=niJtpcgtUQs

Green Day—American Idiot https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ee_uujKuJMI

N.W.A.—F**k tha Police https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c5fts7bj-so

Shall Be Released—Anti Establishment pt. I

This week’s theme is right up my alley, and boy am I happy that it will accompany us for two consecutive weeks. This week and the next we’re all about saying ‘Taking on the system’ and, as there are many great anti-establishment songs, we have decided to divide this theme into two lists: ‘old’ and ‘new’, arbitrarily drawing the line at 1990. This week we will be focusing on some great tunes of punk, hip-hop, and yes—even some country music. And this, I think, points at an interesting aspect I would like to discuss in my opening: anti-establishment sentiments exist on both sides of the political map—left and right, progressive and conservative. Many of Trump’s voters, I’m sure, have deep feelings of resentment against the establishment. In fact, The South—with its history of bootlegging and moonshining—takes great pride in its animosity towards the federal system and anyone representing it. The progressive left, on the other hand, is also highly critical of the political and financial establishment, as the deepening of neo-liberalism serves to further empower the rich, and hinder solidarity. The same can be said about the political atmosphere in Israel, where I come from: the radical right denounces the political establishment because it limits the settlements to some extent, and the progressive left resents the establishment because it allows for infringement of human rights of Palestinians and other minorities. The important point is this: these sides are not symmetrical. They are not the same, and just because they both have criticism towards the establishment doesn’t mean they have mutual interests or a common goal. I heard many people on the left who believed that Trump’s victory in the elections, or Brexit for that matter, are signs that people are finally trying to bring down the establishment and that there is an opportunity for a collaboration here. I think they’re wrong, and I think the rise of hate crime in the US and in the UK is evidence of that. This is something I tried to remember while compiling this week’s list, and this is something I hope you will keep in mind while listening to it.


The Byrds—Wasn’t Born to Follow


Oh wow. I still can’t believe it’s been less than a year since I first heard this song. It caught me immediately: the psychedelic melody accompanied by harmonies country guitar-picking, its highs and its lows, and its anthem-like qualities all inspired me with a deep sensation of wanderlust. It was while I watched the iconic 1969 ‘Easy Rider’ that I first came across it, and nothing says ‘counterculture’ like this movie and like this song. To a great extent, this movie explores the difference between progressive counterculture and conservative counterculture (referred to in the movie in a geographical sense of North vs. South) in America during the 1960’s. While it’s not the easiest movie to watch (strange editing techniques, very few lines of dialogue), it is a must for any movie lover or music lover, as it boasts an absolutely wonderful soundtrack.


Lynyrd Skynyrd—Free Bird

It seems like there’s an epic battle on which was the greatest Southern Rock band of all times—and it seems like the forerunners would by CCR, The Band, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. And while I personally love all three, I think Skynyrd should win the title, perhaps thanks to ‘Free Bird’ alone. It’s such a massive tune, that despite it goes on for nine full minutes, it never gets old and never feels long. And, of course, it has one of the greatest guitar solos of all times. While it takes a romantic angle of a breakup—namely the narrator leaving his loved-one for a life on the road—it emphasizes the inability to ‘chain’ or ‘change’ an individual and in that presents some anarchist notions. Lynyrd Skynyrd, it is important to note, definitely belongs to the conservative part of the political map, and for years has been taking pride in the southern way of life and in the confederate flag (which often waved during their concert, on their album sleeves or official t-shirts). However, its members have recently denounced it and made it clear that they do not relate to the values it currently represents. I’m personally not sure that is enough—I don’t know if back in the 1970’s what it represented was that much better—but Lynyrd Skynyrd remains one of the most important bands the epitomize anti-Establishment Southern Rock.


The Dead Kennedys—California Über Alles

Punk music! The best representation of anti-Establishment music circa late 1970’s and early 1980’s. And few bands were ‘sticking it to the system’ like the Dead Kennedys. While hailing from California, Jello Biafra and the rest of the crew were no Beach Boys. They made hardcore, noisy anti-fascist music, presenting a radical leftist agenda and criticizing everything that had to do with ‘the man’. Their first single, ‘California Über Alles’ pertains to the opening words of the first stanza of the German anthem ‘Deutschland, Deutschland über alles, über alles in der Welt’. These words are no longer sung as part of the anthem as they are associated with Nazism. It is a satirical take on the then-governor of California Jerry Brown, which presents him as a hippie-fascist leader that threatens to kill everyone who isn’t ‘cool’, and includes many allusions to the holocaust.


The Clash—Guns of Brixton

Skipping to the other side of the pond, we arrive at what is, perhaps, my favorite punk song of my favorite punk band. In December 1979 The Clash released their iconic album ‘London Calling’, which, while it is definitely a punk album, draws a lot from reggae and ska music. This revolutionary album tackles many of the social hardships of the time: unemployment, drugs, and racism. ‘Guns of Brixton’, written by the band’s bass player Paul Simonon (who himself grew up in that area of South London), reflects the frustration of the Brixtonite immigrants with the recession and the poor way in which the police treated them. It calls for resistance, even if it is violent. While the song was released before the Brixton riots of 1981, it represented exactly those aspects that led to the riots.


Gil Scott-Heron—This Revolution Will Not Be Televised

What is there to say about this? This is such an epic piece, an epic poem by an epic musician, a precursor of hip-hop music and spoken word, and a call for a revolution that completely shakes off from the Establishment. Just pay attention to the lyrics, and reach your own conclusions.



Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young—Almost Cut My Hair https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Lk2KHajp4Y

The Beatles—Revolution 1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGLGzRXY5Bw

Nina Simone—Mississippi Goddam https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJ25-U3jNWM

Bobby Fuller Four—I Fought the Law https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OgtQj8O92eI

Woody Guthrie—Tear the Fascists Down https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKVnur5DkdI

‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’

As the darkness of Trump’s administration becomes clearer, the power of civil society protests grows stronger. Just over a week ago, immigrants throughout the United States staged ‘a day with immigrants’, to show how important and integral immigration is to all layers of the population. Many workers, oftentimes alongside their employers, refused to show up for work or closed their businesses on that day. This show of solidarity is both effective and powerful, and serves to remind us that many of us live in immigrant societies. Being a descendent of an immigrant family myself—my grandparents immigrated to Israel from post-war Poland in 1957—I am constantly reminded that people don’t simply get up and leave a place they called home for so long. I am ashamed that Israeli society today—being itself an immigrant society in the not-so-distant past—is not more tolerant and empathetic to the agony of refugees. And having left Israel myself—albeit not under threat of death, but out of a deep and growing political alienation—I think I can sympathize, at least to an extent, with the feeling of yearning for a home, and yet knowing that you have no place in the world where you truly feel like you belong. Interestingly enough, although so many cultures today are founded on decades and centuries of immigration, not many popular songs discuss emotional turmoil of leaving one’s home. Much more songs celebrate the home one does have. A fair number, though, does present the pining to a home, many times a home that has been lost.


The Beatles—She’s Leaving Home

While it doesn’t deal with immigration or with pining for home, The Beatles’ ‘She’s Leaving Home’ is not only a beautiful song but somewhat of an anthem of independence and freedom. It is somber and sad, accompanied by strings and vocals alone (and in that it is quite untypical of the quite grandiose album it’s in, the far-more rhythmic ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’), and told from the perspective of the parents who wake up one day to find that their daughter had disappeared. The conflict in the song is obvious, and it is about the actual leaving, and tearing away all the strings that keep you connected to your home. Lennon and McCartney chose not to go into specifics about the fate of the girl, except for mentioning that ‘she’s having fun’, which is—quite obviously—not the fate of most refugees. And yet this song is so touching in describing what it means to leave a place, that I decided it should be included in this list regardless.


Gogol Bordello—Immigraniada

Gogol Bordello is a gypsy-punk band based out of New York City. All eight members of the group are immigrants, and their songs often revolve around their identity and convey progressive, radical left messages of internationalism and statelessness. Their 2010 song ‘Immigraniada’ is an autobiographical celebration of immigrant culture, and has both the lyrics and the video clip to prove it. The video depicts the band’s front man Eugene Hütz (himself a refugee who fled from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster) working in several blue-collar jobs and meeting various immigrants from all over the world. Historic footage of previous immigration waves is weaved throughout the clip. In an interview to boingboing, Hütz describes the video: ‘It’s a video we always wanted to make, because it completes our story. It’s very autobiographical, and tells a story about eight people who are all immigrants, who came to pursue something in new york city. That’s our biography. But on the other hand, like it coincides with the idealistic belief that people shall always be free to choose the place of their residence. This ties in to the whole movement of worldwide citizenship.’


Paul Simon—American Tune

When I think of Paul Simon I automatically think of Art Garfunkel. But whenever I try to think of Simon’s solo career, ‘American Tune’ always comes to mind and always with a smile, as I truly believe it’s one of the most beautiful and simple songs ever written. Musically based on Johann Sebastian Bach’s choral ‘O Haupt voll Blut Und Wunden’ (‘O Sacred Head, Now Wounded’), the song possess some lullaby-like qualities, being soothing and lethargic while unfolding the story of immigration to the United States. It’s not an easy account, either. It captures both the hope and the despair of the move, and the daily struggles that don’t seem to end: ‘And I don’t know a soul who’s not been battered // I don’t have a friend who feels at ease // I don’t know a dream that’s not been shattered // or driven to its knees’ sings Paul Simon. And yet he ends on a positive note: ‘We come on the ship they call the Mayflower // We come on the ship that sailed the moon // We come in the age’s most uncertain hour //and sing an American tune.’


Lou Reed—Dirty Boulevard


A far less optimistic and hopeful take on immigration and on finding one’s home, Lou Reed’s ‘Dirty Boulevard’ (off his 1989 record ‘New York’) bring us the story of Pedro, a child living with his nine siblings in poverty, terrorized by his violent father and begging for money in the streets. The song contrasts Pedro’s miserable life with the glamorous lifestyle of movie stars and celebrities who walk the same streets, and mocks the American ethos of freedom and welcoming immigrant. In a reference to the Statue of Liberty Reed writes: ‘Give me your hungry, your tired, your poor, I’ll piss on them // that’s what the Statue of Bigotry says // your poor huddled masses, let’s club ‘em to death // and get it over with and just dump ‘em on the boulevard’. The song ends with Pedro’s wish to ‘fly, fly away from the dirty boulevard’, perhaps in reference to the famous country-music Christian hymn.


Boney M.—Rivers of Babylon (Melodians cover)


The bible describes the exile of the Jews from Zion, and how—now in Babylon—they longed for their home, in the following words: ‘By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept, when we remembered Zion’ (Psalm 137:1). It was this line that inspired Brent Dowe and Trevor McNaughton of reggae band The Melodians to write this Rastafarian anthem, and one of the greatest songs ever written about yearning for one’s home. While it was made popular by euro-trash disco group Boney M., and that’s how I came to know it, the original version is quite good as well. In the Rastafarian faith, ‘Babylon’ is any oppressive and unjust regime, whereas ‘Zion’ is a utopian, just and peaceful existence. Therefore, this song is more than simply a reflection on being away from home, but a prayer for a better world and better governance—two things we could all use to this day.


Additional Tracks:

Oi Va’Voi—Refugee (feat. KT Tunstall) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJ4j0Xc4e1Q

Kings of Convenience—Homesick https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oll6UfK6iUg

The Antlers—Refuge https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ltNtMhIuYi0

Radiohead—Subterranean Homesick Alien https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tEsgUiF2jGk

The Fugees—Refugees on the Mic https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8RaEf5V_zpI


Shelter from the Storm



This week I was asked to write about philanthropy. My immediate thought was ‘oh no, how will I manage to hold back my cynicism?’. Yes, I know it is cold, and cruel, and harsh, but I can’t help but think of rich (mostly) white (rather) old people who give money to feel better about themselves. Or to give themselves a pass from thinking about the problems of this world, and how they contribute to those problems. Or to quote Zizek: ‘When we are shown scenes of starving children in Africa, with a call for us to do something to help them, the underlying ideological message is something like: “Don’t think, don’t politicize, forget about the true causes of their poverty, just act, contribute money, so that you will not have to think!”’. And yes, I know, some philanthropist make a huge difference. I mean, the fact the Bill and Melinda Gates work towards the eradication of polio, for example, is admirable and should not be dissed by lazy bums like myself who sit around and listen to music all day. Think of it—ridding the world of a disease, in a matter of years, thanks to donations is HUGE. And it wouldn’t have been possible without the help of philanthropists. It definitely wouldn’t have been initiated by wealthy governments, because their thinking is narrowly focused on national interests. And as cynical as I can get, even the awful culture of philanthropy as a status symbol—as a show of wealth—contributes towards such goals. Nonetheless, this was a major concern for me approaching this week’s playlist. I think philanthropy is important, to an extent, but has to be taken with a grain of salt coming from owners of multinational conglomerates, and so I wouldn’t want to dedicate this playlist to singing their praise. Instead, I thought this would be a good time to talk about benefit concerts, where artists stage musical events to exert their political—and yes, economic—influence for the greater good. So sit back and enjoy my list of the five greatest benefit concerts in history.

1969—Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace & Music

The ultimate music festival of all times, and a role model for each one that ever followed, Woodstock was the epitome of 1960’s counter-culture. Set against the backdrop of the ongoing, tragic and unnecessary war in Vietnam, Woodstock wasn’t an attempt to raise money for a benefit, but marked the realization by artists of the power that such mass events may have. I literally don’t have enough space to list here not even the highlights of the performances held in those fateful four days in the Catskills mountains, but I doubt there is a music fan who wouldn’t list Woodstock in the top five concerts he would’ve wanted to attend. That, however, might have been a bit tricky. The festival’s association with drug culture led to the immortal saying ‘if you remember Woodstock, you weren’t there’ (and also to the fantastic official announcement about the bad brown acid). However, the drug and free love cultures must not distract us from the fact that Woodstock was, first and foremost, a political event; and that while it did not end the war, it was certainly a demonstration of the power of peace. Watch the 1970 Academy Award winning documentary ‘Woodstock’ for more on the phenomenon that is, perhaps, the greatest music festival ever.

Sample Acts:

Country Joe and the Blowfish—I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixing-to-Die Rag https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8qPUJhy0Dz4

Jefferson Airplane—Somebody to Love https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2EdLasOrG6c

Santana—Soul Sacrifice https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqZceAQSJvc

Joe Cocker—With a Little Help from My Friends (Beatles cover) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=POaaw_x7gvQ

Jimmy Hendrix—Star Spangled Banner https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MKvnQYFhGCc

1971—NYC: Concert for Bangladesh

The concert for Bangladesh is, ultimately, the first-ever benefit concert. Held not only to promote a political goal, the concert was held in order to raise money for a benefit, namely for funding the relief efforts for refugees fleeing from the genocide that ensued the Bangladesh Liberation War. Ravi Shankar, a Sitar player and a good friend of former-Beatle George Harrison (Ravi Shankar also played in Woodstock, two years earlier) came up with the idea. Fearing that he won’t be able to raise enough money to make a substantial contribution, he got George on board. In a fantastic piece of history, George Harrison explicitly acknowledges his ability to raise funds for benefit, thus giving birth to the idea of benefit concerts. To make the proceedings even more significant, the concert was also filmed and recorded, and copies of the record were sold around the world (indeed, the concert itself raised ~$250K, while the contract for the live record was signed for $3.75M).

Sample Acts:

Ravi Shankar—Bangla Dhun https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vo7lxXW6tO0

George Harrison & Eric Clapton—While My Guitar Gently Weeps https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8CivPhu0fw

Ringo Starr—It Don’t Come Easy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=emKEFXWk4Yc

Leon Russell—Young Blood https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICr9lfWq3yY

Bob Dylan—Just Like a Woman https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kIBxQ1SAXe0


1985—London & Philadelphia: Live Aid

Inspired by George Harrison and Ravi Shankar, actor, singer and activist Bob Geldof sought to arrange a similar benefit concert, this time towards the relief efforts of the Ethiopian famine. The concert, this timed aired live on TV, was one of the largest TV broadcasts of all time, viewed by an estimated audience of 1.9 billion people from 150 nations. Spontaneous concerts were held in various other countries in solidarity, including in the Soviet Union. It is estimated the $150M were raised in the event. This concert was so massive and so in consensus that high-grossing artists that failed to participate had to provide explanations as to why. On 2005, around the 20th anniversary of Live Aid, Bob Geldof held another massive benefit concert, this time titled ‘Live 8’, and again featuring many of the greatest musicians on the planet.

Sample Acts:

Sting and Phil Collins—Every Breath You Take https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V6t4E8C0klc

David Bowie—Heroes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AGOx0ZpMrrU

Bob Dylan, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood—When the Ship Comes In https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L4HYqC8II9I

Band Aid—Do They Know It’s Christmas? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjQzJAKxTrE

USA for Africa—We Are the World https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zi0RpNSELas


1992—London: The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert

In late 1991 the lead singer of Queen, Freddie Mercury, died from bronchopneumonia brought on by AIDS. In celebration of his life and his work, and in a launch of The Mercury Phoenix Trust—an AIDS charity organization—members of Queen and many other musicians gathered for the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert. Just like so many benefit concerts, this one brought along some bizarre collaborations, but perhaps because it was the early 1990’s, they were slightly more bizarre than most. These include some songs performed by Queen alongside Metallica and Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi, or Queen together with Elton John and Axl Rose of Guns n’ Roses. In its own way, this concert led to some wonderful moments, and to a great increase in the awareness of AIDS.

Sample Acts:

Metallica—Enter Sandman https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vF1V4wb_At0

Guns n’ Roses—Paradise City https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m0aBlgoONH0

Spinal Tap—The Majesty of Rock (Hilarious opening) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBn1rrqR3QY

Queen & Robert Plant—Innuendo / Kashmir / Thank You https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7LM9s3Lm4A

Queen, David Bowie & Annie Lennox—Under Pressure https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCP2-Bfhy04


1986 to Present Day—California: Bridge School Benefit Concert

The Bridge School in Mountain View, California, assists children with severe physical impairment and complex communication needs. Musician Neil Young (along with now-ex wife Pegi Young) has been curating an annual benefit concert since 1986 until this very day (with the exception of 1987, where a concert wasn’t held), always featuring the best and hottest names in the music industry. As an indie lover, I personally love these concerts because unlike the massive events mentioned above, they always include less-known artists alongside some of the greatest artists alive. Again, since this concert has been running for so long, it’s difficult to mention all the outstanding acts by name, but a glimpse into the listings of past years will show what a great benefit concert it is.

Sample Acts:

Ryan Adams—Oh My Sweet Carolina https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9wWyUw5DIgU

Arcade Fire—Half Light II https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ta6pa1bCbIw

Tom Waits—Lucky Day https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N5oIRw4iq3U

Beck—Guess I’m Doing Fine https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UkaqpS_tBYI

Metallica—Hero of the Day https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XkyHOu9RrTc






Sittin’ On a Barbed Wire Fence



Walls and fences are so much more than physical objects. These barriers have deep social and political meanings, both tangible and symbolic. They are namely materializations and catalysts of division lines between people mixed into one threatening entity. They are artifacts that encourage fear, uncertainty and the indifference to the well-being of the other. More troubling, they come in the form of a solution, many times slightly alleviating a certain symptom while deepening the problem. Therefore, Trump’s recent political actions since taking office have almost all been devices of expanding—and creating new—division lines between people. While he keeps talking about building a physical wall, the President of the strongest nation on Earth has already managed to erect several invisible walls. I used to live in a country that based—and still bases—its national security doctrine on walls. Most severely, the wall was already up during my entire adult life. It solved nothing. Instead, it only deepened the already-strong separation between Israelis and Palestinians, and indeed I never met a Palestinian person until the age of 25, and that also was in Stockholm. While making the physical border clearer (and implying that possession over land is possible—something I’m not entirely sure about), walls blur the line between obliviousness and evil. They allow us to disengage ourselves from the inherent responsibility we have towards the Other. And yet, the also bring some hope. Division lines enforces on us by governments and politicians—whether physical or abstract—can be brought down. They can be brought down by the power of solidarity, and the denial of the lifestyle walls dictate. The tearing down of walls is an exciting human phenomenon, and it excited us because we are naturally curious as to what is on the other side, and we are ecstatic to find out—time and time again—that it is merely another person, just like us.

Radiohead—Climbing Up the Walls

I love Radiohead. Now, sorry: I LOVE Radiohead. I always used to say that their live concert (I’ve seen in Berlin by the way, another formerly-walled location) is the closest I came to a religious experience, and I meant that as well. It is therefore a bit of a surprise therefore that I haven’t used any of their songs in this blog yet (or at least I think I haven’t? my memory might be betraying me). And yet ‘Climbing Up the Walls’, one of the later tracks in their 1997 masterpiece concept album ‘OK Computer’, is by no means a natural fit to this list. ‘Climbing Up the Walls’ as an expression, means an extreme state of agitation and/or concern, and the song itself concerns mental illness and severe cases of paranoia and schizophrenia (perhaps paranoia slightly does fit the theme here). However, the song’s musical production makes it extremely troubling and some describe it as ‘sinister’. There is a deep, troubling feeling that arises as soon as the track begins, and which goes throughout. It is this fear-invoking approach that is so detrimental in putting up walls.

Anais Mitchell—Why We Build the Wall?

This is an easy one, really. Anais Mitchell’s concept album ‘Hadestown’ is a modern depiction of the story of Orpheus and Eurydice from the Greek Mythology. Set in an Americana dreamscape town, one of the songs features a despotic god of death who ‘indoctrinates the workers’ who ‘engage in mindless, soulless work in exchange for security promised by their boss-king Hades’ (quotes are from a fairly recent article written for Huffington Post by Mitchell herself and applying it to the age of Trump). The song has a simple formula: Hades asks his ‘children’ a question, and receives an answer, and moves on to the next question and so on. The questions all refer to the reasoning behind the building of the wall, and the answers eventually make it clear that the wall does not create more security, nor does it improve the lives of the people inside or outside, but the people of the town are so brainwashed that they keep abiding to Hades’ tyranny, reiterating—quite obviously cynical, as far as Mitchell is concerned—that ‘we build a wall to keep us free’. Little did Mitchell know how poignant her lyrics will become in the days following Trump’s inauguration.


Bing Crosby & The Andrews Sisters—Don’t Fence Me In

If ‘Why We Build the Wall’ is a cynical take on modern day America, ‘Don’t Fence Me In’ is an Americana classic invoking the fond memories of the ‘good old days’ at the frontier (while completely disregarding the injustice that has fallen upon the Native Americans, but we can’t really expect such state of progressive thinking from a song written almost a century ago). It is a somewhat nomadic song, put to music by Cole Porter for the soundtrack of the western ‘Adios Argentina’. I say ‘put to music’ because the text is based on a poem written by an engineer who used to build highways in Montana which are, in a way, the modern-day opposites of walls. The song, which features a very calm and pastoral landscape, repeatedly begs an unknown entity not to fence him in. This is an interesting point, as it has become a bit of an anthem in the south and the frontier states (at least I remember singing it around the campfire in a Colorado ranch), many states that Trump swept in the recent elections. Originally performed by Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters, the song also features many covers, most notably a version by Ella Fitzgerald (one cannot disregard what it must have meant for people of color to compose and make versions of this song in segregated America). Another interesting version, by Talking Heads’ frontman David Byrne, turned into a Louisiana-style jazz anthem, has a fantastic video (revolutionary for when it was shot) featuring headshots of people of various age, race and gender singing the song together.

Liz Durrett—We Build Bridges

I was driving in my car one day, many years ago, and on the radio I heard a song that was so beautiful and enchanting that I just had to know what it was. This was way before Shazam and smartphones, and I was a bit puzzled as to how I will be able to find the song and the singer. Luckily the radio station playing it uploaded all the playlists to their website, and that’s how I stumbled upon indie-folk singer-songwriter Liz Durrett and her phenomenal vocal abilities. Unfortunately she never got big, or famous, but every now and then I go back to her music that makes me so sentimental. One such song is ‘We Build Bridges’ (and I’m sorry for the tacky video, apparently this song featured on some TV show). I don’t really have much to say about it, I just think it’s beautiful.

Pink Floyd—Outside the Wall

Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’ is perhaps the epitome of concept albums (which seems to be a bit of a theme in today’s playlist). Telling the tale of an individual who—through all the hardships of his adolescence and adulthood—surrounded himself by a figurative wall, it is an ode to limited individualism, all the while criticizing both modern society and the way it encroaches on people’s freedoms and the selfishness some people are driven towards. The album is obviously written from the perspective of Roger Waters, who by then became the dominant lyricist of Pink Floyd, and based on his own life and thoughts about politics, society as well as on his reflections on his own actions—namely, an incident that occurred while Pink Floyd were touring with their previous album ‘Animals’ (Waters recently played ‘Pigs: Three Different Ones’, the centerpiece of the album, in Mexico in front of 300,000 people and ‘dedicated’ it to Trump, the video is amazing). I chose not to add the iconic ‘Another Brick in the Wall pt. 2’ to this playlist but rather the somber and soothing ‘Outside the Wall’, to hopefully bring forth a message of hope rather than one of despair, a message that highlights the human connections that can be made regardless of walls and barriers.



Phoenix—Fences https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CFqmvInhGYQ

Leonard Cohen—The Partisan https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S34cVkL6zCE

Whitest Boy Alive—Borders https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lyGw9KL_1Iw

The Egg—Wall https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htYGHC8PI38

Johnny Cash—The Wall https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bbrztQ6IFzM

Anti- Inauguration


I couldn’t believe my eyes. Ever since the results of the elections were announced, it seemed almost comical to think of Donald Trump as the President of the United States. But then, on a cold and bright London day, my phone flickered with a notification that said that Donald Trump is now the most powerful man in the world. And my eyes went dark. A person with noticeable ego problems, an attention-hungry bully, now rules over the most powerful nation on earth and commands (among other things) a nuclear stockpile of 14,000 warheads. The fate of our planet—our fragile, beautiful, diverse planet—is in the hands of  this man. And his reign brings forth the cold shadows of uncertainty, and the fear of regression, and the horror that all progress we have achieved so far (in the fields of social rights, gender and race equality, conflict resolution—just to name a few) will be lost.

However, not all is dark. I look to my friends on both sides of the Atlantic and the amount of good they have done in the past few months—forming groups, organizing rallies, supporting friends and loved ones. I look to the hundreds of thousands, and perhaps millions, who will march today all over the world to protect rights that were earned in blood, toil, sweat and tears. I look to the artists, musicians and entertainers who risk their popularity and release anti-Trump songs, or collaborate and raise funds for human rights organizations, or who will perform at the anti-inauguration party or at the women’s march, or those who refused to normalize Trump’s rule and play at his inauguration. It all reminds us that we can still change the tune. That we can play our music louder, music that will amplify the cry of the disenfranchised and will mask the scream of hatred. That’s why I will march today.

I have assembled below a short list of tracks that were released this past week protesting Trump inauguration. A mentionable track that did not make the list, as it’s more a marching chant than a protest song, is Fiona Apple’s “Tiny Hands”.

CocoRosie—Smoke ‘em Out (feat. ANOHNI)

CocoRosie have always piqued my musical interest. The cabaret-y style, mixed with electronica and hip-hop is not always pleasant, but it’s almost always intriguing. The duo comprises of two sisters, one of who is openly queer and frequently performs in drag. In “Smoke ‘em Out” they have gathered forces with ANOHNI, a transgender musician (formerly Anthony of Anthony and the Johnsons), and recorded a powerful anti-Trump anthem. Instead of writing too much about the song I will let you listen to it, and attach the following statement which the sisterly duo released with it:

“Today, we share a new song to inspire the weary-disappointed hearts of so many crest-fallen citizens. We just started working on a new album, but “Smoke ‘em Out” begged to be turned loose on the world now, as a means of participation during these turbulent yet invigorating times. Joined on guest vocals by our fellow Future Feminist ANOHNI, “Smoke ‘em Out” welcomes the new character who will be occupying the White House with a mob of women and children armed with forks and knives. In the wake of this un-natural disaster, we feel a call to rise, shout, and burn the house down. Included is a poem we have written as a kind of channeling which digs deeper into the subtext of the lyrics exploring the unending end of time ambiance and the idea that “the future is female” and a very necessary force to be reckoned with.”

Green Day—Troubled Times

Green Day released their twelfth studio album in October 2016, about a month before the elections. All the tracks were mastered and finalized long before they knew Donald Trump will become the 45th president of the United States. However, the video for “Troubled Times” was released less than a week ago, and adds more context to this politically loaded tune. This powerful lyrics-video invokes images of the Women’s Suffrage Movement, the Civil Rights Movement, Racism, KKK, Islamophobia, Nuclear War and even some not-so-subtle hints at Trump himself. The video also shows the band playing with the US flag in the backgrounds, as the stars change to questions marks and swastikas.

Arcade Fire—I Give You Power (feat. Mavis Staples)

It’s been almost four years since Arcade Fire released their previous album, the excellent and acclaimed Reflektor. Now they are finally about to release their fifth studio album and embark on a concert tour over the summer. As every single Arcade Fire album makes it to that year’s ‘Best Albums’ lists, and as their concerts are considered amazing spectacles, that in itself is great news for every music fan. Their decision to release this collaboration with Mavis Staples at the eve of Trump’s inauguration makes one love them even more. “I Give You Power” is a reminder—both to the new president and to the people—that the government’s power is conditioned on the legitimization that is bestowed upon them by the people. And if the elected officials will abuse that power, and deny the people their freedoms, that power can and will be taken away.


Gorillaz—Hallelujah Money (feat. Benjamin Clementine)

Gorillaz are one of those bands who always challenge me musically, but I trust them enough to know that whatever they make will be good, albeit unconventional. “Hallelujah Money” does something the Gorillaz do very well in their other politically-charged tracks—it creates a fable, a dark and gloomy fairytale, that reflects on our reality. Benjamin Clementine, being the voice of the demagogue, talks about the wonderful tree that ‘we’ have, and how everybody wants it and we therefore must protect its fruits. “And I thought the best way to perfect our tree // is by building walls // walls like unicorns // in full glory and galore” he asserts. The worrisome 2D (the Gorillaz character that is portrayed by Blur front man Damon Albarn) asks in return: “How will we know? // When the morning comes // we are still human // how will we know?”.

Moby & The Void Pacific Choir—Erupt + Matter

Moby’s new project entitled the Void Pacific Choir is doing the eternal electronica artist a lot of good. It enables him to show many other sides of his talent, including some a bit more aggressive, rough and raw. “Erupt + Matter” is not only a protest song, it’s almost a trance music anthem. It hits hard and shows no mercy, and yet it retains the excellent Moby-esque production value. Released merely two days ago, the video shows various videos from popular protests, and invokes images of various despotic and demagogic rulers such as Bashar Assad, Kim Jong Un, Tayyip Erdogan, Nigel Farage, Marine Le Pen and yes, lest we forget, Donald Trump. The anthemic chorus goes as follows: “We believed your words, but now we see // You just don’t mean, a thing to me // Your power reign was sick and wrong // Your time is gone, your time is gone // And we don’t need ruin and lies // Your touch is death, your heart despised // Your time of reign and dark began // Your time to change is at an end.”

Every week I end my post with five songs that suit that week’s theme and didn’t make the final list of five songs. I would like to make a small exception this week and instead give a partial list of artists and musicians who will either perform at today and tomorrow’s various anti-inauguration events, or will contribute to musical project protesting the agenda promoted by Donald Trump:

A.C. Newman, Amber Coffman, Angel Olson, Angelique Kidjo, Corin Tucker, Doug Martsch, Emily Wells, Grimes, How To Dress Well, Indigo Girls, Janelle Monae, Janet Weiss, Jens Lekman, KT Tunstall, Lila Downs, Mac McCaughan, Matt and Kim, Maxwell, Mitski, Mountain Goats, The National, Neko Case, PWR BTTM, Questlove, Rakim, Samantha Ronson, Sleater-Kinney, Stephen Malkmus, Strand of Oaks, Tim Heidecker, Toro Y Moi, Torres, TV on the Radio, Twin Peaks, Whitney, Will Oldham.

Don't Think Twice

So we’re back from the break, we’ve all had a much needed vacation, and 2016 is finally over. However, it’s time to look down the barrel of the new year and try to work out what we have in store. A major trend recognized in 2016—and one that in all likelihood will, unfortunately, accompany us during 2017 as well—is the matter of ‘Post-Truth’. The Oxford English Dictionary defines Post-Truth as ‘Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’ and recently hailed it as the ‘word of the year’ for 2016. And yet, Post-Truth has been around for decades, and we should probably notice it before we get all ‘the boy who cried wolf’ over it (my money’s riding on that being a trend during the year to come). And as a phenomenon that’s been around for so long—one that was utilized by both journalists and politicians, and by sectoral and mainstream movements alike—we can take comfort in the fact that much music has been written on and around it.


Rami Fortis—April Fools

In 1977 Israeli rocker Rami Fortis released his debut album, ‘Plonter’ (Hebrew for ‘tangle’). While today there is very little doubt that the album—as well as Fortis himself—belong in the Israeli rock-n-roll hall of fame, the album was accepted with much critique and drove Fortis to move abroad where he made his break with new wave group Minimal Compact. The fact that the album received very little acclaim is not surprising however, as it is the first-ever Israeli punk album and as such it offers explicit criticism on modern culture. ‘April Fools’ is a unique track in that album, because it’s the only one sung in English, and lucky for us it deals with the tendency of news reporters for exaggeration and sensationalism. The second verse contains the lyrics: ‘Searching for the holy scoop // sensational disease // brainwash all the stupid mules // you think you are god’s gift’. The chorus also resents the journalists for ‘driving the truth for [their] door’. Another song on the same album, this one sung in Hebrew can be best translated to ‘get off my TV screen’ (‘רד מעל מסך הטלוויזיה שלי’) and protests the mass consumption of mainstream media.

Jethro Tull—Thick as a Brick

Thick as a Brick is, probably, the magnum opus of Jethro Tull. The British progressive rock outfit has made many tremendous musical pieces, but this piece from 1972 is just a single song, 44 minutes long, that is a mass of social criticism. While Ian Anderson made sure to write an extremely sharp and painful critique (though one heavily masked by metaphors and allegories), the cover of the album included a post-truth nugget of its own. Simply put, the entire cover—which presented a front page of a small-town English newspaper—was a spoof. The front-page article claimed that the lyrics for Thick as a Brick were originally written an 8-year old named Gerald Bostock for a poetry contest. The song granted Bostock the prize, but it was later revoked because many found the poem to be too offensive. In printing this article on each record sleeve, Jethro Tull not only criticized English culture and English media, but also created a post-truth tale themselves.

The Smiths—Panic

Allegedly a cheery anthem, listening too much to ‘Panic’ can lead one to cheerfully and childishly sing ‘hang the DJ, hang the DJ’ over and over again. What sounds like a critique of music and the choice of music on radio stations, can actually be expanded to be a general critique of media and politics. Morrissey describes how panic is gripping the UK as a whole, describing how one feels hopeless looking for safety and stability. Eventually, he reaches the conclusion: ‘Burn down the disco // hang the blessed DJ // because the music they constantly play // says nothing to me about my life’. Obviously, we could take the explicit meaning and think that by DJ he means either a club DJ or a radio DJ, but what if it’s a general complaint against whoever ‘selects the tunes’, so to say? In that case, it’s a very broad critique against the British Government, the BBC and the media.

Fleetwood Mac—Tell Me Lies


Ok, honestly, this song is only here because of its title. Well, that and because I reallllly love it. Like, really. Except for being an absolutely MASSIVE tune, the title also reminds us that not only the politicians and reporters are to blame for phenomena which revolve around post-truth. It’s also the public who is so inclined to believe and to swallow-up whatever sensationalist story it’s being served. Conspiracy theories—for example—are fun, because they make us feel like everything is under someone’s control, whereas reality is actually much more complex. If we are to battle this era of post-truth, we need not shy away from such complexities and be careful of theories that seem too good (read: simple) to be true.

John Lennon—Gimme Some Truth

I mean, this basically says it all, doesn’t it? Just listen to it with the lyrics, I think it’s pretty much straightforward J Amd just remember, the truth is out there. Or is it..?

Additional Tracks:

Spandau Ballet—True https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldXgK71pgxs

Bob Dylan—Ballad of a Thin Man https://vimeo.com/52383325

Built to Spill—Liar https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xv96lj-YM7U

Handsome Boy Modelling School—The Truth https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EheSOZHjHb8

The Police—The Truth Hits Everybody https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jcXXhknpO5c

Pressing On


It would have been way too easy to dedicate this playlist to another bleak and dark topic, just as we did in the past few weeks. Unfortunately, not enough has changed to give us real reason for optimism or significant change in the foreseeable future. And yet, I was very happy to learn that this week I am to dedicate the weekly Justice Adda playlist to a slightly lighter topic: unity, healing and togetherness. This is, after all soon after the holidays, and while we have no reason to be complacent, we could try to think about how to make 2017 better; and as some of us are lucky enough to have spent a few days at home with our families, we can hope that through social change this luxury will become a reality for more people in the year to come.



LCD Soundsystem—Christmas Will Break Your Heart

Last Christmas, December 2015, one of the funkiest ensembles in the history of mankind (my opinion) released their first single in years, shortly after announcing their 2016 reunion tour. This tour was one of the musical highlights of year gone by, and I was lucky enough to witness them playing live in the Primavera Sound music festival in Barcelona. Quite different from the kind of material LCD Soundsystem usually play at concerts, the 2015 single “Christmas Will Break Your Heart” is a rather melancholic tune. It’s a rather pessimistic and depressing holiday song, not exactly your run-of-the-mill Christmas carol, and it described various situations in which the holiday make people feel sad and lonely, with lines such as: “Christmas will break your heart like the armies of the unrelenting dark // once the peace talks fall apart”. However, every verse ends with the optimistic turn: “But still I’m coming home to you”, and the song itself ends on a happy and comforting crescendo. Perhaps it’s symbolic of how 2016 turned out, and perhaps it’s just a good reason to keep on keeping on.


Sufjan Stevens—Ring Them Bells (Bob Dylan Cover)

Bob Dylan’s 1989 album “Oh Mercy” is considered by many to be one of the best Dylan albums outside his so-called golden age. I myself don’t know it very well as an album, but it does have one my favorite Dylan songs. “Ring Them Bells”, for me, is a hopeful portrayal of a simple life. It holds many religious references in both its lyrics and its melody, and rather Christmasy at that. That being said, however, it does not come without criticism and protest, present in lines such as: “Ring them bells for the time that flies // For the child that cries when innocence dies”. It was Sufjan Stevens’ cover of this song, which is featured on the soundtrack of “I’m Not There”, a movie loosely based on the life and work of Dylan, that made me fall in love with this song. As great as the original is (and some Dylan fans out there will kill me for saying this), something about the cover makes it even more pastoral, more holy, relaxing and emotional. The tender guitar licks and the mighty brass riffs accompanying Stevens’ soft voice really drive this song home, and to the heart of every listener.


Leonard Cohen—Anthem

Yes, I know. We lost Leonard too in 2016. And it completely broke my heart. But no matter what, his lyrics and poems will be with me for the rest of my life. Not only in my mind, as I hum his fantastic tunes, but in every inch of my being as I keep acting in the world whilst knowing how much that one artist influenced me. It’s tough to even consider choosing a favorite line, track or album, but “Anthem” does stand out in being a very personal call for social action and solidarity. It is moving for the individual, and it is empowering for movements advocating justice, human rights and a more moral conduct worldwide. Cohen reminds us that “Yeah the wars they will be fought again // The holy dove she will be caught again // Bought and sold and bought again // The dove is never free”. However, he promises us that it is not a situation that we must accept, and that we must use whatever tools and instruments we have to bring more light to the world: “There is a crack, a crack in everything // That’s how the light gets in”.


Ben E. King—Stand By Me

Before I knew “Stand By Me”, the Ben E. King song, I knew “Stand By Me” the Rob Reiner 1986’s coming-of-age film. I remember watching it again and again, as it was a kind of cult movie when I was growing up, analyzing it with friends, family members and teachers, and how some scenes from the movie became so iconic for me, that they represent to this day what I consider to be “American”. But most importantly, it taught me about friendship and devotion (incidentally, much like the group of friends in the movie, me and my closest friends constitute a party of four). As great as the movie is, it is all the more greater thanks to a brilliant choice of a title song. Ben E. King’s 1961 hit “Stand By Me” is to this day one of my all-time favorite soul songs. It features a great sound, with it’s signature percussion and rhythm, and King’s iconic singing. It is a great reminder of how together we can overcome obstacles. It was very recently covered by Florence + The Machine.


Curtis Mayfield—People Get Ready

A religious anthem of sorts, Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready” is a fantastic soul song, that always moves me. To an extent, every time this song—and particularly this live version of it, with its distinctive guitar intro—plays or comes up on my shuffle, I stop everything I’m doing, take a deep breath, and remember that I am alive. I am not a religious person myself, and therefore it strikes me as odd, but I think there is something very universal about it, and while it’s full of Christian elements, it sends a very humane and moral message. It is truly fantastic, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.


Happy new year!



More Songs On the Weekly Theme:

The Hollies—He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother https://youtu.be/Jl5vi9ir49g

Youngbloods—Get Together https://youtu.be/TMTK8oMTiJw

Tom Waits—In the Neighborhood https://vimeo.com/160627705

Beck—Everybody’s Gotta Learn Sometime (The Korgis Cover) https://youtu.be/PaI1sLqFOuE

Kanye West—Never Let Me Down (Feat. Jay-Z and J. Ivy) https://open.spotify.com/track/06TqBu4Vi2DEu2F2wNTEnb