True Rebel Music of 2011 - Part Two

Here is the second group of 7 songs that made the cut for the very best True Rebel songs of 2011.

8. AGAINST ME! - BECAUSE OF THE SHAME

I already wrote an entire blog inspired by this song here. I don't really have anything to add other than what I said then. We are terrified to be vulnerable. We associate it as being weak. Yet, dealing with things like death, loss and pain, we must absolutely find the strength to be vulnerable if we want to be able to travel through those things and find healing at the end of the journey.

9. JACK'S MANNEQUIN - THERE THERE KATIE

This song is written to Katie, struggling with depression. Her friend is trying to bring some hope to her despair.

"Katie, I'm sorry that in your condition the sunshine's been missing. But Katie, don't believe that it isn’t there... This world can be ugly, but isn't it beautiful that we're not really here and we're really not there."

The writer seems to be suggesting that we live somewhere between how ugly the world seems when we see it at it's worst (its ugliness) and how beautiful the world seems to be at it's best (its beauty). It seems to me that it also suggest a journey, like we can get there, to the place where we see the amazing beauty in the world. It seems to be a place of healing where all the ugliness we have seen and experienced can be healed; sounds wonderful.

This song takes an unexpected and honest turn; now the singer is the one struggling, depressed and needing Katie and the strength and bravery that she showed by facing her own depression and getting through the hard times.

"Katie, you're a brave girl. Courage is something I'll need now, because it's been a hell of a day, I've spent fading away, but we all fade sometimes. I believe that Katie it's a strange world, as I watch our tables get turned round. But you've got the strength that I've lost. Who'd of thought you would be carrying me?"

I like how the song states that we all fade sometimes. We all have our moments of weakness; moments where the ugliness of the world gets us down. I love how we also each get our moments of strength and now it is Katie's turn to be the one 'carrying' her friend who is feeling lost.

This has been true for me with my best friendships. At times I am the strong one, at times they are. Much of the time I think we find the strength we need when someone else needs to be carried. It's a beautiful song.

10. FLEET FOXES - HELPLESSNESS BLUES

This is a real discovery song by Fleet Foxes. A young man trying to discover who he is, rejecting much of what he has been taught since childhood. He knows there is something better, but is still discovering what that might be.

"I was raised up believing
I was somehow unique
Like a snowflake distinct among snowflakes
Unique in each way you can see
And now after some thinking
I'd say I'd rather be
A functioning cog in some great machinery
Serving something beyond me.

But I don't, I don't know what that will be
I'll get back to you someday soon you will see."

He seems to be railing against the hyper-individualism and narcissistic selfishness of Western culture. Instead, he wants to be a part of something great even if it is not all about him.

I don't need to be kind to the armies of night
That would do such injustice to you
Or bow down and be grateful
And say "Sure take all that you see"
To the men who move only in dimly-lit halls
And determine my future for me

Now the writer gets a little more specific. He is talking about forces that are hidden or concealed ("by night", by "dimly-lit halls") who "do injustice" who "take all that they see" and "determine my future". This journey of discovering something better had lead him away from wanting to be any part of this type of a system; away from greed, away from injustice, away from allowing anyone else to determine who I will be or what role I will play.

The writer won't "wait for anyone else" to begin his participation in something new, he won't just sit around and sing "helplessness blues".

Finally, there is a desire to do something; to work, hard and meaningfully. "If I had an orchard, I'd work till I'm raw." Here we find the imagery that is the opposite of the "armies of the night"; the writer won't be a part of a society that just takes (and makes others work hard in the orchards for his benefit). He would rather work hard in his own orchard than bow down to an unjust system and take up a future that participates in that injustice.

Excellent stuff in this poetic piece by a band that is exploding right now.

- In a 'mixed tape context this would be the end of side A -

11. THE NIGHTWATCHMAN - BLACK SPARTACUS HEART ATTACK MACHINE

We start Side B off with a bang!

If you've followed this blog for any length of time you may well know that I deeply respect Tom Morello. His latest album as The Nightwatchman has a totally new feel as Tom has taken more of his background in harder rock (Rage Against The Machine) and mixed it with this folk incarnation of himself. The result is the acoustic guitars and harmonica of folk music mixed with the driving beats and electric guitar of rock. As usual though, the album is filled with folk anthems of the oppressed rising up against an oppressive system.

History's not made
By presidents or popes
Or kings or queens or generals
Or CIA kingpins runnin' dope

History's not made
By nine robed men
Or billionaires or bankers
It's not made by them

Might throw a little money 'round
Wonderin' who can be bought
Some might find they're weaker
Some stronger than they thought.
Well I stand or fall right here
In my country, in my home

I used to think I was alone, well, I ain't alone no more!

Me and my people are hungry
Me and my people are through
Me and my people are ready
Me and my people are just about due
!

This is a rebel song for the people. We are the ones who make history. If we can't be bought, if we can be strong, than we can fight for freedom right here in our own countries. If instead of the 'powerful' we align ourselves with the hungry and the poor then they will become 'our people' and us and our people will demand change and we will make history.

But perhaps the most interesting thing about this song is that it is about a "hollow box" with "steel stings" that was "union made". The "Black Spartacus Heart Attack Machine" is Tom's guitar! What I love about that is what it implies. We take whatever we have, whatever gift, whatever talent and we use that to rail against injustice and oppression. Tom's guitar is going to give the system a heart attack because he is using his talent full out to try to write a new history that includes all the people; the hungry, the poor, the oppressed.

Tom didn't invent this idea. Woody Guthrie, the godfather of folk, had a sticker on his guitar that read, 'This Machine Kills Fascists'. Tom and many others have been inspired by Woody to sing songs and use their talent to expose injustice and "Let Freedom Ring!"

12. THE ARKELLS - WHISTLEBLOWER

Canadian Content!

A song to celebrate Wikileaks! This song's through line is "Just a little bit of faith is what I want, it’s what I need in my institutions." Unfortunately, the reality is, again and again we cannot have faith in our institutions and governments. This song makes the demand, "Let's hear it for the whistleblower!” the one who risks is all to expose the truth about our institutions that become corrupt. Watch the movies The Insider or The Constant Gardiner to see the price that whistleblowers pay to try to expose the truth.

So when it happens over and over, when the whistleblower steps forward against the mighty and powerful to expose corruption, greed and oppression, let's hear it for the whistleblower!!

13. FRANK TURNER - IF EVER I STRAY

One of my favourite songs of the year!

Some days it feels like you just can't win
No matter what you do or say.
Things didn't kill me but I don't feel stronger
Life is short but it feels much longer
You've lost that drive, you've lost that hunger
To pull yourself through the day.

Not the most optimistic of beginnings; feeling depressed and down. Perhaps you've never felt like you've lost the drive or hunger to pull yourself through the day. I've certainly been there. These are the moments when our character and integrity is tested; when you are down and out, how will you respond?

But if ever I stray from the path I follow
Take me down to the English Channel
Throw me in where the water is shallow
And then drag me on back to shore!
'Cuz love is free and life is cheap
As long as I've got me a place to sleep
Clothes on my back and some food to eat
I can't ask for anything more

This writer/singer's response is to ask for help! We need other people in our life who will help us to 'hold fast' and maintain our integrity in the moments where we can't see to do it on our own. "Throw me in the water" this song asks, it's a way of saying, help wake me up! Wake me up so that I remember what is important. If I've got a place to sleep, some clothes, some food, then why am I so down? I've got everything I need.

This song is recognition of how important the relationships are in our lives;

I'm sorry baby, for the times I've hurt you
Sorry friends, for the times I desert you
Most days it feels like I don't deserve you
I wonder that you're all still around

He has much more than shelter, clothes and food; he has friends and people in his life that stick with him through thick and thin even when he doesn't 'deserve' it. We all need friends like that. Friends who will give you a good shake and remind you of who you are and what is really important. Not a big promotion or a fancy-this or new-that but the stuff that is right in front of your face.

They are important moments when we get thrown into the water. When we are willing to hear those who love us urging us to wake up to what really matters;

Come on and join me in the water
Swim for hope
Sometimes it's hard to remember
I couldn't do this on my own

The journey of a True Rebel will inevitably not be possible 'on our own'. It is the committed friends in our life that infuse that journey with hope. "If you've got my back I'll go on."

(This song runs directly counter to another song I thought of including; Lifelong Dayshift by Middle Class Rut. In this song the writer/singer is totally fed up with the day to day grind. He's got other mouths to feed [presumably his family], and he is tired of it all to the point where the refrain is, "Your life, it ain't worth, wasting mine on". This guy needs to get tossed in the water. He's obviously finding it impossible to find the beauty in front of his face; his family and friends. Instead it is a complete narcissistic, selfish rant, another Dad about to go try to find his 'life' and likely to only repeat his cycle of meaninglessness.)

14. MUMFORD AND SONS - HOLD ON TO WHAT YOU BELIEVE

This is an older song my Mumford but was recently released on their Sigh No More Deluxe Edition.

I can't promise you that I won't let you down...

I ran away
I could not take the burden of both me and you
It was too fast
Casting love on me as if it were a spell I could not break
When it was a promise I could not make
 

This song is a perfect follow up to the difference I just discussed between Frank Turner's lyrics and Lifelong Dayshift by Middle Class Rut. Each song, including this powerful tune by Mumford, has a character who is in a place where they feel like running away. Life has become a burden, it is not easy and we begin to question who we are and what we are doing with our lives.

The refrain of this song very much stands in agreement with Frank Turner that we need those moments where we realign ourselves with our convictions and what is truly important;

Hold on to what you believe in the light
When the darkness has robbed you of all your sight
.

There will come moments where it will be difficult for us to remember or see what we once held true and held so fast to. When things get difficult it is harder for us to stay true to our character, integrity and what we hold to be true. It is in the face of the storm; when we confront uncertainty, pain, loss, death, etc. that our true integrity will be tested. In those moments of trail, will we be able to hold on to what we believed in the light; when things were not so clouded, when we were not grappling with the blinding power of grief, sorrow, doubt etc.?

And now this land
Means less and less to me without you breathing through its trees
At every turn
The water runs away from me and the halo disappears
And the hole when you're not near
.

I think that the writer/singer at this point in the song has stopped singing about his 'love' from the first verse and it has become much more spiritual. He has run away from what he once believed was true and now nothing has meaning anymore. Running away didn't help him find meaning, instead, his life has lost much more. Nothing is illuminated anymore; the land and the water have lost their life for him now that 'you're not here' (possibly his love, possibly his faith).

He has learned from turning his back on "what he believed in the light". Giving into the darkness by fleeing difficult times and circumstances has robbed him of much more than he imagined.

Normal life circumstances bring us each to moments where we question who we are and what we are doing. Frank Turner and Mumford are not suggesting that we suffer through abuse, for example. Rather, they suggest that in the regular rhythm of life we will find ourselves doubting and maybe even contemplating turning our backs on things and people that were so important to us. That 'something more' that we are looking for can't usually be found in a new relationship or a new town, or a new school. Can we remember what we believed in the light? Can we remember what we hold to be truly important?

This is an older song my Mumford but was recently released on their Sigh No More Deluxe Edition.

I can't promise you that I won't let you down...

I ran away
I could not take the burden of both me and you
It was too fast
Casting love on me as if it were a spell I could not break
When it was a promise I could not make

This song is a perfect follow up to the difference I just discussed between Frank Turner's lyrics and Lifelong Dayshift by Middle Class Rut. Each song, including this powerful tune by Mumford, has a character that is in a place where they feel like running away. Life has become a burden, it is not easy and we begin to question who we are and what we are doing with our lives.

The refrain of this song very much stands in agreement with Frank Turner that we need those moments where we realign ourselves with our convictions and what is truly important;

Hold on to what you believe in the light
When the darkness has robbed you of all your sight
.

There will come moments where it will be difficult for us to remember or see what we once held true and held so fast to. When things get difficult it is harder for us to stay true to our character, integrity and what we hold to be true. It is in the face of the storm; when we confront uncertainty, pain, loss, death, etc. that our true integrity will be tested. In those moments of trail, will we be able to hold on to what we believed in the light; when things were not so clouded, when we were not grappling with the blinding power of grief, sorrow, doubt etc.?

And now this land
Means less and less to me without you breathing through its trees
At every turn
The water runs away from me and the halo disappears
And the hole when you're not near
.

I think that the writer/singer at this point in the song has stopped singing about his 'love' from the first verse and it has become much more spiritual. He has run away from what he once believed was true and now nothing has meaning anymore. Running away didn't help him find meaning; instead, his life has lost much more. Nothing is illuminated anymore; the land and the water have lost their life for him now that 'you're not here' (possibly his love, possibly his faith).

He has learned from turning his back on "what he believed in the light". Giving into the darkness by fleeing difficult times and circumstances has robbed him of much more than he imagined.

Normal life circumstances bring us each to moments where we question who we are and what we are doing. Frank Turner and Mumford are not suggesting that we suffer through abuse, for example. Rather, they suggest that in the regular rhythm of life we will find ourselves doubting and maybe even contemplating turning our backs on things and people that were so important to us. That 'something more' that we are looking for can't usually be found in a new relationship or a new town, or a new school. Can we remember what we believed in the light? Can we remember what we hold to be truly important?

Perseverance, character, integrity; these things will be essential as we commit to being people of love. People who can remember what is truly important. People not afraid to ask for help in the moments where the darkness seems to surround us. It takes courage to defy the darkness and fight our way to the horizon and the breaking of a new day.

Perseverence, character, integrity; these things will be essential as we commit to being people of love. People who can remember what is truly important. People not afraid to ask for help in the moments where the darkness seems to surround us. It takes courage to defy the darkness and fight our way to the horizon and the breaking of a new day.

(Reminds me of Mumford's Thistle and Weeds where the height of passion in that song is accompanied by the lyrics "BUT I WILL HOLD ON, I WILL HOLD ON HOPE!"... powerful)
 
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