I am a sucker for pop punk and I am certainly a sucker for political punk. Major Label darlings Rise Against fit this perfectly. A few yeas ago I was really drunk and bought “Siren Song of the Counter Culture” because I had one of their songs on a Fat Records Comp and I was in the mood for some pop punk. They put out another album after that. I didn’t buy it, because I don’t like buying music put out on major labels.
But a few weeks ago I saw their new video “Re-Education Through Labor”. This video is very interesting. The Chicago four piece is located in an underground, unidentified location. They are rocking out like rock bands should. Intercut with this footage is a group of motorcycle riders. We shortly find out that this black clad gang are putting bombs together and then stuffing them into back packs. The motley crew then disperses amongst the city, riding their bikes under the midnight sky. The romantic scenes of wind wiping them in the face follows them as they break apart. One by one they approach towering buildings and lay down the bomb stuffed back packs. I’ll leave it to your imagination to guess how this short film concludes.
So what strikes me about this is that Rise Against is the new youth generations Rage Against The Machine. A major label band with deep political rhetoric that utilizes the imagery of radical action as a means of promotion. I’m not so interested in the debate about selling out, or calling them out for being radicals on the payroll of an international corporation. Though I think these discussions are important, I am more interested in the impact that this video, sure to be on heavy rotation on MTV (this is after all where I saw it. Well it was probably MTV2 or something of that nature) and with over a million hits on YouTube, is going to have on the young kids.
Rage Against the Machine didn’t last too long for me. It was mostly musical. The second album didn’t show a lot of growth for me and by the time it came out I was fairly heavy into my local music scene that was way more accessible then the rock bands of Lollapaloza and Rolling Stone. I wonder though now, in these days of direct media how a band like Rise Against fairs amongst it’s target audience (which I clearly am not, though, as it’s been pointed out to me they are catchy as hell). This radical idealism is being used to sell albums and concert tickets. The imagery being shown would, under current laws be considered terrorism despite it’s obvious echoes of Fight Club. And yet the video was paid for and is being promoted by the same conglomerate the destruction of this video is celebrating.
What does this all mean? It can’t simply be written off as bullshit, and yet the romantic notion of (mostly) white, punk, svelte kids is being broadcast next to Brittney Spears. Is anyone taking it seriously? Can it have any impact if it does in fact sit next to Pop Princesses like a commercial that unfortunately music videos are considered to be?
This is obviously not a new discussion and it certainly won’t be the last. But it is interesting to me that bands, born claiming radical politics, can manifest popularity and sell themselves with this imagery. Part of me feels like this is arrested development. While direct, violent action is an option, it’s not necessarily the best option. I can’t help but think of the lower working class toiling in those buildings after hours now the victims of some one else’s ideology. This was the point made in the movie Fight Club that makes that book have a bit of truth and hope in it. But this video doesn’t but the bricks in their hands. It seems idealistic and romantic and I don’t think this is something that should be taken lightly.
I’m not really sure how I feel about destructive action. The mild, quiet, gagged in the closet Buddhist in me finds these ideas difficult to reconcile. While I understand the frustration and passion that fuels these ideas, I can’t help but think that destruction only builds destruction and not the chance for rebuilding in it’s wake. At least I haven’t found a tangible connection. But that’s just me and it’s not based on any type of study or reading, it’s just how I feel inside.
It’s funny that a punk band from Chicago, Van Sponsorship behind them and probably a nice tour bus can spark so much in the way of thought sometime. Of course I spent this glorious day inside my house like a vegetable, and these ideas are just a distraction from my own reality, that truth be told seems a lot more complex and pressing to me at the moment. Selfish I know, but I can only do what I can do in the moment that I am presented with these choices. I can only grow and evolve as fast as I do. This is life.
The link to the video for “Re-Education Through Labor” by Rise Against is below. The Universal Group would not let me embed it. Major Labels just really fail to get it.