Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Deep Thoughts: About New Beck, Old Wars, John Prine And How To Give A Dirty Santorum

As a boy I wanted to be Sherlock Holmes when I grew up, but now I’m thinking I wanna be Nigel Godrich. Seriously, the “it” boy producer’s life is most people’s idea of a rock ’n’ roll fantasy camp. Just take a look at his day planner for the last couple of years. Monday: Give Paul McCartney edge. Tuesday: Dial back Thom Yorke’s edge. Wednesday: Make Beck a man.

Ironically, it’s the latter who suffers the greatest cred deficit these days. Some say Beck jumped the shark back at Midnite Vultures. Others lost faith when they found out he was a member of the same outer space cult as Tom Cruise.

But The Information, Beck’s latest, renders all that moot. Think Paul’s Boutique meets The White Album — a sprawling, mesmerizing amalgam of dots nobody else would’ve thought to connect. I hear bits of Neu!, Art Ensemble of Chicago, Serge Gainsbourg’s proto-rap masterwork “Requiem Pour Un Con” and even old Beck, all filtered through the most modern of sound filters and down digital trapdoors where they bounce around endlessly in the pomo hall of mirrors that is Beck’ Hanson's soul, or at the very least an incredible simulation of one. The results are as arresting and ambitious as anything he’s released to date.

Only time will tell if this goes in one ear and out the other a month after purchase, never to be returned to the CD changer, as was the case with Guero. But this much is already clear: Beck would give his left testicle, and the vintage Adidas shell-toe (also left) he keeps it in, to write a song as timeless and indelible as John Prine’s ode to “Sam Stone,” which maps a Vietnam vet’s postwar descent into the abyss, from blind patriotism to PTSD to heroin. (I know this because, well, I just know these things, but also because Beck takes a weak stab at addressing war in a shoulda-been-left-off song called “Soldier Jane.”)

People have been trying to get me into Prine for years, but he always struck me as one of those things that was “good for you” but didn’t taste good—like broccoli or condoms. But last week NPR’s American Routes devoted a whole show to the man, and you know what? All of a sudden I’m likin’ the taste of broccoli and condoms.

You’ve heard “Sam Stone” even if the title doesn’t ring a bell. It’s the song that goes, “There’s a hole in Daddy’s arm where all the money goes/ Jesus Christ died for nothing I suppose.”

Which got me to thinking: When the Vietnam vets came home, they became victims. When the Iraq War vets came home, they became activists—running for office as Democrats or starting anti-Swift Boater 527s like VoteVets.org.

This is progress.

VoteVets is a group of Iraq vets delivering karmic comeuppance to war-pig GOP congressmen who talk the war-on-terror talk out of one side of their mouth and vote to kill funding for state-of-the-art body armor out of the other. VoteVets has a devastatingly effective TV ad demonstrating the difference between the Vietnam-era flak vest issued to our boys in Baghdad, which modern arms turn to swiss cheese, and the latest body armor that stops bullets dead—before they kill and maim. The ad ends with an Iraq War vet explaining [insert name of war-pig congressman here] voted against funding modern body armor.

Last week VoteVets.org took the fight to Pennsylvania, targeting our pal Rick Santorum, another cynical chickenhawk who voted to sell out the troops under cover of Senatorial procedural bullshit. Pardon my French, but fuck. These. People. All together now, let us sing: There’s a hole in the nation’s arm where all the money goes, and our boys in Baghdad are dying a death of a thousand tax cuts, I suppose.

12 Comments:

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