Artists may return to norm after Bush is out of the picture

By by Justin Jacobs

It’s been more than a week since the election, folks, and unless you are in a coma or a… It’s been more than a week since the election, folks, and unless you are in a coma or a religious fanatic, you’ve probably come to terms with the fact that President-elect Barack Obama will be our next president. And that’s fine for us ‘mdash; whichever of those two chaps took home the prize wouldn’t have really affected our daily livelihoods for at least a few months. But what about those Americans who spent the last months of the campaign banking their non-political careers on the political process? Now that it’s all over, now that McCain can finally sit down and take his vitamins and Sarah Palin can finally drag her pregnant daughter back to church, what are they going to talk about? No, I’m not talking about Fox News anchors. I’m talking about the musicians and artists who spent the past months simultaneously building up the campaign and building up their careers. Now that those liberal rockers got what they wanted, will they put down the megaphones and stop writing pretty songs with lyrics from Obama speeches? Well, for the most part, the answer is simple. Most of the ‘politically active come election season’ artists will go back to doing what they do best ‘mdash; making regular old music about big asses, da club and stuff like that. All the Will.i.ams, the Kanye Wests and Billy Joels, the Fergies and the J. Los and the Dave Matthews can rejoice that Obama made it in and go back to their real lives. But there is another breed of musician that won’t have such an easy transition. They love political dissent, they play really fast and they often have mohawks. Punk rockers, who often base entire careers off of criticizing the government, may find themselves … oddly pleased with the state of the country for a change. Maybe the best example is Pittsburgh’s own Anti-Flag. The men of Anti-Flag made their name playing fast, furious punk rock with a sole mission to expose the corruption of the government and, of course, the man. The band’s songs read with titles like ‘F**k Police Brutality,’ ‘This Machine Kills Fascists’ and the catchy ‘Depleted Uranium is a War Crime.’ The stage banter of leaders Justin Sane and Chris #2, at least before the election, often went as follows: ‘Put your middle fingers in the air and chant with me now … ‘F*** (Insert: Bush, capitalism, the War in Iraq, political apathy … you pick)!” As the band came into its prime in the early 2000s and the political climate of the country sunk lower and lower, Anti-Flag had an easy time riling up the youth to get angry about social issues and push for change ‘mdash; the band had endless material to write about as there was simply so much to criticize. Needless to say, I was a bit skeptical of what exactly the band’s message would be when I stopped by its Mr. Smalls show on Sunday night. Is it going to immediately jump on whatever Obama policy they already don’t agree with, I wondered, or will they turn those frowns upside down and declare a new day for America, and for Anti-Flag? The answer, as it turns out, was neither. Now Anti-Flag is a very divisive band ‘mdash; if you don’t mind the constant political commentary paired with punchy punk rock, then you won’t mind this Pittsburgh legend. But to many, hearing song after song of radically liberal messages make the band simply seem cartoonish. And for the latter group, I say, it might be time to listen back in. ‘ ‘I saw Barack Obama the other day on the Allegheny River. He was walking on water,’ said Justin Sane, mocking the claim of Obama as the messiah. I could see a bashing on the horizon. I was wrong. ‘Barack Obama, my friends, is not the change in America that we want to see. You are the change. You elected him, now you must make sure he does what he’s promised to do,’ said Sane. ‘This country is not about Barack Obama. This country is about all of you here tonight.’ And there you have it. Anti-Flag, which has, in the past, called for Bush to be tried as a war criminal, resisted both praising and bashing Obama, instead putting the power in the hands of the voters, who, it seems, will be the new focus of attention for the band. Anti-Flag, and many like it, may not have the same base of material to draw from anymore as Dubya packs up and heads out, but the message it will carry to the future may be its most powerful yet. Punk rock isn’t dead, but it just got a lot more realistic.