National pride, like any personal relationship, is an equipoise of like and dislike, using the words “like” or “dislike” to suffice for the extremes of the two is staid, but logical. We can yammer about what we enjoy or detest about the United States of America till the cows come home. Be you an intransigent Country boy of San Antonio or a pretentious pseudo-intellectual of San Francisco, well, you can obviously tell we don’t suffer from the same ailment as Derek Zoolander (twenty points for off kilter reference)…
Complete with praise and dissent, here are twenty songs for your Fourth of July for all to enjoy. –Kieran MacIntyre, Music Editor
David Bowie/NIN – I’m Afraid of Americans:
Believe it or not, this was my first proper introduction to Trent Reznor when, bored one summer, I was digging through my dad’s CDs to find the “I’m Afraid of Americans” single. Mind blown. It captured all my youthful anti-American angst and featured a Bowie that was alien to me. I was used to Ziggy, Hunky Dory and The Thin White Duke, but this was a whole new sound. Still Bowie, yet warped, distorted and dangerous. Needless to say, I stole the CD from my dad’s office and played it on repeat while studying the album art. “Trent Reznor…?” I wondered as I booted up AOL to do further research.
Kendrick Lamar – The Blacker The Berry:
Jesus Christ, how have we had ANOTHER racially charged mass shooting? I mean, what the fuck America? Where does this come from? Is it a lack of gun control? Racist remnants of The Civil War? Think about it while you’re watching the fireworks tonight, while you fill your SOLO cup and while you wave your flag. The past two years have been both painful and important for race relations in our country. Kendrick Lamar did an excellent job covering some of the issues in To Pimp a Butterfly, and this is one of the angriest, and unfortunately most relevant tracks off the album right now.
Wilco – Ashes of American Flags:
Despite the violence, June was, thankfully, a rough month for intolerance in the US. There’s a series of pictures out there that captures it perfectly–the Confederate Flag being taken down, only to be replaced by the Rainbow Flag. As we’ve seen, a flag is more than a patterned piece of fabric, it’s a symbol, capturing the ideals of millions of people. Tonight, think about what our various flags represent to you?
The Strokes – New York City Cops:
While you’re out and about today, be careful. The cops are ruthless. Yesterday, I saw two people pulled over by Highway Patrol within a half mile stretch of freeway. They don’t want you going 65, they want your money. Full stop at every sign, the law is on their side and nothing can ruin a holiday like a fat ticket from an angry copper. Trust me, I speak from experience.
Pixies – The Navajo Know:
I get it, today is about being an American (US citizen is the preferred term when talking to people from South/Central America and Canada), of which I am quite proud. I love my country, there I said it. Despite this, I do get uncomfortable when people parade about in their Stars and Stripes, waving their patriotic superiority like the United States is, was and will always be “just the best.” Politically, this country is less than 250 years old. Less than a hundred years ago, women couldn’t vote. Segregation wasn’t legally dismantled until 1964 and gays couldn’t marry nationwide until last week. We’ve come a long way, but we’ve still got a long way to go. This song goes out to the people that came before us, to the idea that we aren’t always right and that there are still plenty of things we have yet to understand. Being an American is fucking awesome, but remember, that doesn’t give us the right to trample other people’s cultures.
The Avengers – The American in Me:
The Avengers are one of the classic San Fransisco punk bands. They opened up for the Sex Pistols on the last show on the last show of their US tour at the Winterland along with the Nuns in 1978. It’s an American tradition to question and criticize our government and society, for better or worse and the Avengers certainly carry that tradition on in this song. They would be one of the first of many American bands to be identified as punk rock and are certainly one of the best.
Creedence Clearwater Revival – Fortunate Son:
This song captures the spirit of an entire era in American Society. It was released in 1969 as a lance targeting Nixon and the culture of privilege that allowed upper class young men to find ways to escape military service while the poor and middle class were selected at random to go die in a war many felt was a mistake. An entire generation stood up and altered in many ways the fabric of American society with songs like this as the anthems. Given that this country was born in a revolution, this is pure America distilled and bottled into a song.
The Animals – House of the Rising Sun:
The Animals made this song famous in 1964 roughly eight months after the Beatles first came to America. This song is as American a song as any could possibly find. With a murky history that leaves it no definitive origin, it’s essentially a song that, prior to the Animals popularizing it to a mass audience and in effect standardizing it, existed with many slightly different variations throughout Appalachia and the rural South as a folk song possibly as early as the 19th century.
NWA – Straight Outta Compton:
NWA are one of the most LA groups in the history of music. They wrote about their experiences in their city and in a society that had all but forgotten about them after the initial civil rights victories of the 50s and 60s. American society of was sitting on a powder keg that was about to be set off by guys like Ice Cube, MC Ren, Eazy E and Dr. Dre. They made bold and aggressive statements about their lives that America found impossible to ignore and, alongside the many other artists in film and music of their generation, forced the American public to look at the realities of their lives that it wanted to pretend didn’t exist.
The Briefs – Orange Alert:
I am a part of the generation that grew up watching the Twin Towers fall and then the subsequent culture of paranoia and our country’s imperial aggression that followed. Songs like this one express the disillusionment with our institutions that I and many of my generation feel. What is America to me? It’s a work in progress that I love but one that certainly acts its age, being the hormonal teenager of nations. However, we have come a long way from where we started, and we should never forget that.
The Clash – I’m So Bored with the U.S.A.:
It’s fourth of July weekend and everyone is probably going to be playing songs that represent and show our country in a good light. Let’s be honest with ourselves though. America is not always unicorns and rainbows, and that’s perfectly fine. In come my favorite english punks, The Clash. This song really makes America look like the complete opposite of what everyone might think. It’s not just red, white and blue freedom. Joe Strummer makes sure to talk about everything from drug problems to America’s favorite crook president, Richard Nixon… Granted The Clash did talk enough smack about their country as well, but it just shows that even if we do have some serious issues and kinks that need to be worked out, no country is perfect, and there will always be things that we might want to change.
LCD Soundsystem – North American Scum:
This was the very first LCD Soundsystem song that I had ever heard and the honest lyrics mixed with those bubbly synths is what really drew me in. James Murphy starts the song off talking about how he hates going to another country and feeling the glares of all those around him who know he is American. There is a negative connotation associated with being American, and he has absolutely no control of changing that. Although he agrees that there are some great aspects of pretty much anywhere outside of the states, this is where he grew up, and became the person that he is.
Simon and Garfunkel – America:
You can’t have an America playlist without giving Simon and Garfunkel a little love. Simon and Garfunkel are really great at making music that pretty much makes you feel like you’re floating on the fluffiest and whitest cloud you can find, being fed grapes, while watching someone serenade you with a piccolo. This tune tells a short sweet story of two young lovers and the beginning of their journey across the big, great states. “So we bought a pack of cigarettes/And Mrs. Wagners pies/And walked off/To look for America.” They hitchhike and take bus to get from state to state, and all of them seem so intangible and unreal. It’s such a vast land that we have, where there are so many things to see and do.
NOFX – Franco-Unamerican
A fun and upbeat song that makes any liberal heart flutter. NOFX really makes you hate Americans, and makes sure that we know we’re not the “best.” They talk about influential figures like Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn, and of course make sure to make a small reference to the brain washed Reagan youth. The line that truly hits home with me and just tickles me with joy is when they sing, “I don’t want to be another ‘I-don’t-care’ ican.” Americans do have a tendency to not really care and do as they please without ever thinking about the consequences.
Chuck Berry- Back in the USA
In my opinion the best times for America were the 1920’s and the 1950’s. Both post war where people were happy to be alive, grateful to have a home, and times were a bit more simple in general. Chuck Berry epitomizes 1950’s America perfectly in “Back in the USA.” Jukeboxes, diners, and hamburgers, what could be better?! During this time the USA was the place to be. It was perfect. Everyone had an astounding amount of patriotism and absolutely everyone in the country wanted to do anything and everything to make sure that it was the greatest place to live.
Andrew Jackson Jihad – Lady Liberty:
In the true protest fashion that this country is known for, Phoenix Indie crossover sensations Andrew Jackson Jihad released this song on a compilation called “A Line in the Sand”, which featured Arizona based artists rallying against the state’s draconian SB 1070 legislative act. “Lady Liberty” is an acoustic guitar driven excoriation of the Arizona’s state government, vocalist Sean Bonnette wonders what World War Two was for if such a law exists in a country that was founded to be a bastion for immigrants seeking oppurtunity, SB 1070, or Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, in it’s original form was aimed to have strict enforcement of harshly handling immigrants in the state, including detaining someone based on unsubstantiated suspicion” of the individual being undocumented. Bonnette insists to them that Lady Liberty is not a whore and that can not simply target a third of the state’s population, though the law has been somewhat amended with the help of the Supreme Court there is still the larger issue of a xenophobic portion of the nation’s population, but “Lady Liberty” represents the other side of the population that welcomes opportunity for all.
Woody Guthrie – All You Fascists Bound To Lose:
To continue the trend of awesome Folk, this is a classic wartime declaration to the Axis that was easily one of the Folk pioneer Woody Guthrie’s most patriotic numbers. “All You Fascists” is as emblematic of Guthrie’s stark opposition to the Nazis as the signature “This Machine Kills Fascists” written upon his dusty guitar. Sure, you may have known “This Land Is Your Land” since you were taught it in rote in Elementary school, but this song encapsulates a true American (or Hillbilly as he proudly calls himself in the song’s intro) who is unafraid of the very terrifying time our nation was once in and proudly gave a salvo of songs that had as much power as our artillery in that war. The war may have ended 70 years ago but this tune can still feel relevant because as long there is power to be grasped across the globe, fascism will live on but with songs like this and enough people to believe in it, it will lose in the end.
Catch 22 – American Pie:
Sure you may know the Don McLean song, which is about as cliche as telling your newly single friend that there are plenty of fish in the sea, but here is a hilariously irreverent cover from the Third Wave Ska group Catch 22 (which once featured a pre-Streetlight Manifesto Tomas Kalnoky) that butchers the song’s memorable chorus with their notably adroit instrumentation. I find this song to be as patriotic as the original, it isn’t jest at America necessarily, moreover, a stab at a song that has become so vapid through decades of radio play and drunken Fourth of July party’s singing along. So instead skank (or mosh) to this unique rendition of the song and take your day of red, white and blue into a checkered direction.
Strung Out – Blueprint of the Fall:
In the wake of 9/11 hysteria, Southern California Punk legends Strung Out put this incendiary warning of doom in their seminal 2004 record “Exile in Oblivion”. “Imagine a place where freedom’s just a word on a wall. Surrounded by the wreckage of towers that could never fall” Lead Vocalist Jason Cruz yells in the song’s intro, he continues through “Blueprint” warning that the loss of human life in the Iraqi conflict is the consequence of the then Bush administration’s warmongering after the Twin Towers tragedy and how it is continuous trend of using our fear to fire up the “Company’s” power that will be the means to our end. Though their sound continues to evolve, the “Exile in Oblivion” days were a great time for the band’s sound and their ardent opposition to the conservative nation around them, “Blueprint” is a time tested anthem against a quixotic battle against terror, not to mention Jordan Burns is one of the greatest drummers working today. No matter what your opinion of that conflict in the Middle East, be it an altruistic fight against terrorism and the Authoritarian Hussein, or a display of imperial power that has further warped our image world wide, whether you believe it or not, it has spawned even more turmoil in the region and the good we did, or at least what we thought we did, is waning faster than we can fix it. This song could be a vestige of the Anti-Bush driven Punk scene a decade ago or a very pertinent omen to what our overseas actions will do to us at home.
Trey Parker & Matt Stone – America, Fuck Yeah!
On the bright side of the previous writing, this song. Whether it be for our national pride… or chagrin, Team America World Police’s theme is a hilarious reminder that we fucking rule! Even though we didn’t invent half of the things listed in the song’s latter “fuck yeah” portion, we basically have it by Americanising nearly everything in existence. The irony of this song being used in a patriotic fashion is almost as hilarious as the lyrics of the song itself, at least for today just have fun and pop open some Budweisers (or Pabst, if so inclined) and watch shit explode to one of the most “patriotic” songs ever.