True Rebel Music of 2011 - Part Three

The final instalment of the very best True Rebel Music of 2011. For my fellow music lovers out there I hope you have enjoyed diving into these blogs as much as I have enjoyed the process of creating them.

15. NOAH AND THE WHALE - TONIGHT'S THE KIND OF NIGHT

Last Night on Earth by Noah and the Whale is one of my absolute favourite albums of the year. So many songs on this album are full of hope and pregnant with possibilities; courage to change, the power to keep going, the passion to strive for something better.

L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N. - A song about people for whom life has not gone the way they would have dreamed or hoped. People who also, despite circumstance, have heart and find the courage to keep living.

Life is Life - Sick of being someone he did not admire... He's gonna change his ways... And it feels like his new life can start, and it feels like heaven.

Give it All Back - A song about youth using music as their way to escape the suburbs and experience some kind of freedom in this life.

Me Before We Met - My daughter can be incredibly shy and this song gave us a line to use that makes her smile, "Don't be shy, be brave little champion!" The line goes on to say, "It's better to live than to hide". (LOVE!)

Waiting for my Chance to Come - 'Cause it's hard to feel like, you're worth something in this life. This song isn't about someone just waiting though; they are facing the world head on!

I could have chosen any of these songs. But I love the line, "Tonight's the kind of night, everything can change! This song is about a young man who has managed to leave his town and is embarking on a new journey and a new life! There is an absolute excitement and anticipation to it! I would, however, like to see all the imagery Noah uses about leaving town as a metaphor. Leaving your home, your town, whatever, is not, on its own ever going to be the thing that gives you a new life, new beginning or changes everything; that has to come from yourself. You don't even need to leave your home or town for everything to change or to experience a new start! That happens with your choice.

What I love about this song is that it applies to each of us on EVERY NIGHT! Every night, every day, every moment is one where we have the opportunity and possibility of change! I've used this Anne Frank quote before because it is so great coming from a victim of the brutality of the Second World War to still believe in change, ""Isn't it wonderful that none of us need wait a moment before starting to change the world." Tonight is the night!

16. OUTERNATIONAL - WE ARE ALL ILLEGALS (TODOS SOMOS ILEGALES)

I wrote in last year's music blog about how Outernational played in Arizona and experienced some serious backlash by challenging the harsh racist immigration laws that Arizona was trying to pass at the time. Other artists were boycotting Arizona, but not Outernational they went in to stand against this oppression with voice and music!

Outernational fights with their music, including recording a cover of Woody Guthrie's Deportees with Tom Morello. In 2011 many of us had a chance to contribute to Outernational's most recent project, an album entitled Todos Somos Ilegales, "We Are All Illegals", a statement of their ongoing battle to support the oppressed of our land. The title track was recorded with Tom Morello again and Chad Smith, of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, on drums. It is a reminder of how North America was invaded by Europe, the indigenous people murdered by the millions and now we have the audacity to call people "illegals". We are all illegal; we have what we have because of murder and greed. Let's join the fight for a new day and a new way!

I love how Outernational dares to say things boldly and not pull any punches; "It's a planet of slums", "The American land of parasites", "The land we stand on, every inch of it stolen". Some people cringe at such blunt statements. I choose to see it as refreshing honesty.

Do to the success of the Kickstarter campaign that helped give birth to Todos Somos Ilegales, the album is available for free, or a generous contribution to help support amazing True Rebel artists like Outernational. You can find it here. It includes Deportees, We Are All Illegals and many other anthems that cry out for justice and equality.

17. UBIQUITOUS SYNERGY SEEKER (USS) - YO HELLO HOORAY

These Toronto boys describe their own music "like a campfire after-party with a jungle-rave vibe". However, you want to talk about USS they do have a very unique flavour to their sound.

This particular song is an interesting companion to some of the others that I've written about in this series. While some of the other songs are one person's struggle to maintain integrity and joy in the midst of depression, confusion or life circumstances, this song is someone's attempt to give perspective to someone else who is being overcome by life and addiction.

Start panicking, turn into a mannequin
Take a breath now, ahh, begin again
Open your eyes please
Turn your smile on
Realign with now as well
You start freaking out
Wishing you were peaking out
Hold it together now
Instead of leaking out
Turn your smile on
Turn your smile up bright

Remember the days when your laughter was meant
Remember the days when you did what you said
You’re counting the days til you get high again
Chill out, be easy on yourself

Having seen so many people struggle with addictions, this song resonates well with me. It doesn't matter if the writer is speaking to someone who is struggling with cocaine, meth or marijuana, each one has power to overcome and enslave the one who spends their days counting down to the next high.

This is one of the tell-tale signs of addiction, when it begins to consume our thoughts and becomes an obstacle in the enjoyment of other important things in our life, especially family and friends. "Remember the days when your laughter was meant? Remember the days when you did what you said?" This individual is slipping away from the people who care most about them. Their relationships are suffering because of their addiction.

In the case of this song, the writer is suggesting other positive forces that can potential help someone deal with stress and life circumstances without the use of drugs. And the key here is relationships; finding joy right where you are with the people in your life.

I like to play with each cell of your brain
I call and say Yo Hello Hooray
I’d like to wake up a moment from your smile

The writer/singer wants to be 'the drug' playing with 'each cell of your brain'. Calling "YO HELLO HOORAY" is relationship injecting your life with connection, joy, enthusiasm and fun!! The writer is saying that this can really work, because in this scenario the person wakes up with a smile, a line to run parallel to the laughter that once was meant, and now there is a genuine smile. A reconnection with a relationship lost.

I remember celebrating years ago because I got a friend back. I had lost him to the abyss of heroine. Trying to interact with him in his addiction was like trying to call down a long, dark tunnel; no real connection. When he emerged from that tunnel it was amazing! A resurrection for him, but also a resurrection for each one of us who loved him, a new life for each relationship that was shut out by the toxic grip of addiction. He's one of my best friends in the world and this song reminds me of him!

Ultimately though, his emergence from addiction could not be controlled by me or anyone else. This song is just a calling out, a cry, shouting, "I'm here! I love you! I want to see joy in your life!" All we can do as friends is continue to call out and hope that something gets through when the song hope that the "boys and girls" will be able to "let their past go" and "turn their smile up bright".

(Canadian artist Lights did a cover of Rancid's Fall Back Down about a year and a half ago but I finally had in on a mix in 2011. It could be the counterpart to this USS song. It is about someone who is going through a lot, trying to fight their battles. She recognizes though that she might fall down. When she does though, she recognizes she has friends who will "pick her back up again")

18. The Apache Relay - Power Hungry Animals

This is a really simple song with relatively few lyrics.

The main crux of it is that there are so many 'power hungry animals' that 'want control'. "Everybody is telling me what do" they want to "hang me up by their noose". The implication is that to give power of your life over to someone else who wants control of you is like a 'noose', it is death.

The anthem of this song is, "Souls cannot be fooled", it's a beacon of hope that he will be able to win this battle and hold on to the truth. There is an element of faith in this song and it will allow him to rest in peace even though everyone is fighting for control and he doesn't always know what to do. "Souls cannot be fooled" also has some finality to it which implies that his soul will ultimately have the victory.

It is a particularly optimistic song. I'm not sure that our souls can't be fooled, even if there is a spark of the divine in us. Kids, who grow up under abusive circumstances or with parents with particularly twisted ideologies (racism etc.) can often resign their soul to these lies, become consumed by them and repeat the same violence to their children. However, I don't mind this song being particularly optimistic. By saying, "Souls cannot be fooled" what he is really saying is "MY soul won't be fooled" and that is something that each person can grab onto and take a stand!

(This song is also from a 'youth' perspective. Being in that place where everyone seems to want control and to tell you what to do, where to turn, who to become. Every year there are many great songs dealing with youth. Brandon Flowers took an optimistic view and declared that "Only the young can break away". Incubus took another approach in their song Adolescents and expressed how overwhelming and lost one can feel when they feel "Out of sight and out of mind.")

19. Michael Franti & Spearhead - I'll Be Waiting

For this one, the video pretty much explains everything.

"Do you believe me when I say that the night won't last for long, soon it will be gone, and I won't leave you alone."

(I could do without the small injections of Americana into the song. The song is really about human connection and not pro-Nationalistic garbage, but the video mostly gets it right.)

20. Sam Roberts Band - The Last Crusade

The crusaders and their stooges
All you renegade rulers
All you spotlight fugitives

This song by Montreal's Sam Roberts can be best summed up by his lyrics, "A rebel today is tomorrow's tycoon". We've seen this over and over again throughout world history; people overcoming oppression only to become oppressors themselves.

It is a warning that as we 'soldier on' and we are "trying to find" the new "kingdom" we are likely to just repeat the mistakes of generation after generation before us. The Last Crusade is a perfect title as it refers to perhaps one of the most heinous examples of this paradox. The Christian church had long been persecuted, killed, exiled, oppressed, but when the Empire itself took up the Christian religion it became the oppressor. Crosses were painted on shields and now the Roman Empire killed in the name of Jesus.  The Christ who always stood with the oppressed now represented by Christians who ever since play a dominant role in dominant, wealthy, oppressive culture; from Rome to colonialism to capitalism.

Communist rebellions ended with rulers in rich palaces when they wanted equal wealth and land for all people. National leaders in Africa helped to overthrow oppressive foreign regimes but then some became even more brutal in their place.

A friend of mine once stated, "If you use the empires weapons, you will only ever get the empires results." In other words, violent rebellion always turns into violent regime. If you want to throw off violent, oppressive empire, you must find another way!

21. YOUNG REBEL SET - RED BRICKS

The final song of our mix which is lyrically tied to a handful of songs from this list of True Rebel songs. Again we hear about an internal battle that might lead someone to run away from current circumstance even when there is love and people who care right there.

The difference in this song is that it is clearly about a romantic relationship and it is about the willingness of one partner to not control the other. If his love "quietly slips away", it's not what he wants, but he knows it is a possibility and one that he has accepted and is willing to live with.

Lift your head up darling and look around you
And try and see the beauty in what surrounds you
'Cause maybe your dreams are just not that far away
And who am I to be telling you to stay

So take your running shoes and just throw them away
And find a pair that fit you and just will you to stay
'Cause your heels are so worn from running from the past
And shoes like those are never built to last

It is clear that he wants his love to stay. The 'shoes' that are always running from the past won't last, eventually the only healing to be found is in finding the beauty that surrounds you and to end the constant battle and urge to run away. And yet "who am I to be telling you to stay"? He won't force or control, even when he can see the need for healing, he will let his love live their own life even if it means they run again. This is a very difficult choice to make but so necessary. Without that ability to release people to their own journey you end up with control and manipulation, that is not how love works.

And I will never blame you, no matter what you think
'Cause you always had forewarned that this ship could sink
Down into the depths of what I just don't understand
So this punishment was not dealt with by your hand.

For his love to leave it would hurt him badly, it would be "punishment", however, he will not put the blame on his love, because he knows what this commitment means, including the possibility of being hurt. You cannot open yourself up to love without vulnerability, including the possibility of being hurt. That is something that comes with the package. Too be able to be hurt though, without holding onto anger, bitterness and resentment, WOW, that's tough. The way this writer/singer is able to find the strength to do that is through perspective; choosing to focus on the gift rather than the pain, focusing on the love rather than the hurt, remembering to search for the blessing rather than being swallowed up by the curse; "'Cause this is far better than never knowing you instead."

It is a haunting, powerful love ballad. We don't know the ending. Maybe his love is able to stop running and find the beauty what surrounds them, perhaps not. The beauty of the song is in the love of one who loves without strings attached; unconditionally. Even if you hurt me, even if you walk away; I will love you. There is healing here for you; beauty, dreams, love, that's what I want for you, but the choice is yours and either way; I will love you.

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I LOVE MUSIC! For the rest of you who do as well I hope you enjoyed these blogs and maybe even discovered some great new music. Perhaps others have even learned to not just hear music, but to truly listen to it and be impacted by the poetry of hope, love, change and possibilities!

 
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