Music — Best of Bush - Reviews of Recent Releases

The Joker’s Wild, by Greg Palast, illustrated by Robert Grossman, Seven Stories Press, 2004.

Greg “The Best Democracy Money Can Buy” Palast, a journalist in London and New York, works hard digging up stories that get buried or, if he’s lucky, featured in the annals of Project Censored.

He would like this to change.

So he’s created The Joker’s Wild, a deck of cards now available in bookstores. Presumably inspired by Bush’s official deck of Most Wanted Iraqi boogiemen, The Joker’s Wild presents one political figure per card. The joker, big surprise, is George W. Bush. Did we mention that Palast is not a fan of the current presidential administration?

He is also, let it be noted, against NAFTA and the WTO, and not thrilled with the Clintons or Al Gore, nor news anchors Brokaw, Jennings and Rather.

Each card presents just enough info to pique interest—and a colorful cartoon caricature.

The deck includes names familiar and unfamiliar—Katherine Harris, the Texas Rangers, Ahnold Shwarzenegger; the Wyly Brothers (big Texas money) and Lee Raymond (ExxonMobil boss). All 13 hearts are reserved for Palast’s good guys (rabble-rousers and whistle-blowers like Jim Hightower and Amy Goodman) and the rest of the deck is the bad guys. Palast is all about following the money trail and uncovering links that maybe the linkees would prefer to keep covered; of course the obscure names and their interconnections are the most fun.

Visit www.gregpalast.com. Shuffle, and deal, and play the hand you’re dealt.

—Lisa Parsons

Rock Against Bush, Vol. 2
Fat Wreck Chords, Aug. 2004

Honestly, can’t listen to it all the way through.

And yet, I heartily recommend it.

Because, (a.) if you “collect” compilations, you’re going to buy it anyway and (b.) for the money (less than $10) the DVD extras are worth the price alone.

On point a—if you have ever purchased a compilation for that one previously unreleased track, you’ll probably end up buying this album eventually. Got any Green Day, No Doubt, Foo Fighters, Sleater-Kinney, Rancid or Sugarcult on your shelves? Yeah? Relatively low sticker price plus more than a passing interest in any one of these bands equals you’ve already got it at home don’t you?

The music itself is, for a collection of songs about rebellion, all rather comically similar. Kids play loud bouncy music while shout-singing. Some of it is cute, some of it is silly, some of it is skippable.

But forget that because this CD is all about…

Point b—The DVD features C+-on-the funny scale comedy clips form Greg Proops and Patton Oswalt and one spot-on bit from Will Ferrell. I’m not even a huge Ferrell fan and I’m perfectly content to call this skit, where Ferrell’s President W tapes a campaign commercial saying “My name is George W. Bush and I have approved this message because it is awesome” brilliant

—Amy Diaz

Banana Republicans: How the Right Wing is Turning America into a One-Party State, by Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber, Tarcher/Penguin, 2004, 221 pages plus notes and index.

Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber, editors at the nonprofit Center for Media and Democracy who also wrote Trust Us, We’re Experts! and Toxic Sludge is Good For You!, argue that extreme rightists have commandeered the Republican party and stifled dissent both within and outside it.

Wherever Republicans have tried to squelch opposing views—wherever Bill O’Reilly is snarling “Shut up!”—Rampton and Stauber are there. They expose Fox as a propaganda machine (this chapter could be a companion to the Outfoxed DVD, though it is not officially related). They recount the story of David Brock, the former Republican and supposedly objective journalist who confessed to smearing Clinton and Anita Hill while under the pay of the right wing. They describe Bush’s removal of accurate information about condoms from the Centers for Disease Control web site; and the administration’s silencing of environmental researchers to suit ideology; and Republicans’ vote-suppression efforts in Florida, Colorado and elsewhere. It’s a readable little book, with each point well documented and inside sources—named, not anonymous—quoted throughout. Banana Republicans has substance and isn’t screechy, for which it deserves at least a polite nod and maybe a thank-you from everyone on both sides.

— Lisa Parsons

Future Soundtrack for America

MoveOn.org, 2004

What does it sound like when MoveOn.org, McSweeney’s and Barsuk Records collaborate?

Earnest.

And, honestly, earnest is not good in entertainment.

This 22-track CD is a bit heavy in the message but a bit light on finding music that works well together and works as an album as much as a political statement and fundraising vehicle.

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ live version of “Date With the Night” is entertainingly raw and gritty; They Might Be Giants are charming, as always, with their “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too.” Death Cab for Cutie and their “This Temporary Life”? Good, very good.

But there’s something a bit thin, a bit unsatisfying about much of the rest of the album. It features talented artists, but they’re not turning in their best stuff.

An album like this, which seeks to raise money, awareness and support, would do better to consider the enjoyment value first and the mission statement second.

—Amy Diaz

  

 
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