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A long time political activist and as self-proclaimed “professional flat-picking rabble-rouser,” David Rovics is a musician on a mission. In Meanwhile in Afghanistan, a musical WikiLeaks, Rovics seeks to expose governmental corruption with colorful social commentary through song.
The opening track, “Breivik,” is named after Anders Breivik, the man responsible for the deaths of 77 people in Norway. With a singing style reminiscent of Cake’s John McCrea, the frantic, quick paced song criticizes the European “xenophobes who slaughter to be pure” and that more can be done than just “moderating rhetoric.”
He continues his political musings throughout the album with a clever mix of playful and satirical and serious lyrics.
Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave) makes an appearance in “London Is Burning,” playing lead guitar. The song, a social commentary on a death, he suggests, caused by racism, voices a concern of blatant profiling and inequality. “Some life is worth-less, some life is worth more.”
“Perhaps when I was a younger man, when I believed in fate.” A departure from the vast majority of the other tracks on the album, “Adelaide,” is an introspective love song. Politics and social commentary thrown to the wayside, Rovics sings of a woman he loved but that one he let get away.
Just when you think Rovics is getting soft he hits you with, “Meanwhile in Afghanistan,” the album’s title track. “Who is the terrorist?” chanted in the chorus, asks if we are pointing the finger at the right people, if our leadership is the real culprit.
Lyrics dripping with sarcasm, “If Only It Were True,” mock Republican sentiments and exaggerations of the president if he’s reelected. Lyrical gems “he’ll ban logging in the parks, he’ll send the works of Karl Marx to the homes of every American girl and boy,” and “he’ll abolish pesticides,” complement the satirical nature of the song. The chorus “if only it were true,” a cheery yet lamenting chorus wishing all of these supposed plans were real.
With a gospel/bluesy feel “Steal this MP3” promotes file sharing or as Rovics puts it, “sharing knowledge.” In this track, words are not minced with sharp-tongued verses like, “they play nothing but the hits, and they hope to placate us with Lady Gaga’s t*ts” and “they don’t care about the culture, they just want your money.” A huge proponent of Creative Commons, Rovics has “Sharing and copying encouraged,” printed on the back of his album.
“He Called Me Dad,” a melancholic tune, tells the story of a WWII veteran whose son is drafted into the Vietnam War. An emotional song filled with heartfelt lyrics, the song is Rovics’ most moving track.
MIA ends with “Why Don’t They Play You On The Radio?,” a catchy upbeat tune, where Rovics voices his distain towards the music industry. Throughout the song, he sings of possible reasons why his music isn’t played on the radio, at one point singing that he’s “too cerebral.”
Not at all a contender for Top 40, or any radio as he proudly acknowledges, David Rovics uses the power of song in Meanwhile in Afghanistan, to make social and political commentary catchy.
Currently touring the western part of the U.S., Rovics is currently booking gigs for 2013. In April, Rovics will tour Europe, where he will be until mid-June.