Will Hoge shows confidence in the power of his sound with a 30 second introduction to Gilded Walls that”s propelled by a driving beat then a powerful cutting comment, in his striking deep voice, about the wayward political priorities of our times: “Well, I guess you don’t need clean air to breath when you think you’ll be just fine.”
If there could be any doubt that he’s got the current U. S. administration in his sights, he hammers it home: “you’re living on everything your daddy left behind/it’s clear you don’t care about the folks down here.” The song also references the water crisis in Flint, popular protest, school shootings and the nature of evil. Not bad for a 4.5 minute rock song.
Stupid Kids continues the political theme with a melodic, bar chord punk rock song in defence of politically aware youth, urging them to “keep being stupid kids” because they’re on track to change things that need changing with their fresh ideas and activism. Think Greta Thunberg and the Parkland survivors, as well as everyday teens.
There are no punches pulled as Hoge barrels into an attack on the Confederate flag: “it’s just a hammer driving nails into the coffin of a long dead land…I’m still a Southern man/don’t want your stars and bars/and your blood on my damn hands.” The electric guitar parts and heavy drums match the tenor of the verbal attack.
Oh, Mr Barnum gives a moment to rest after the first three rousing songs. It looks back at smoke and mirrors men of America’s past, with obvious parallels to today’s tricksters.
The enmity and sarcasm in Thoughts and Prayers is unmistakable, giving voice to the increasing backlash every time the phrase is trotted out after a mass shooting in America: “As long as you can keep your re-election bills paid/you’re just a whore to the guild that’s called the NRA/they tell you how to vote and they sell you all the lies/and we watch as common sense just slowly dies/and now you’ve got blood on your hands.” The denouement drives it home: “God will just laugh and tell you I don’t care/send you to the fire with just his thoughts and prayers.”
My American Dream proves the personal is political and flips the tidy narrative of progress and work ethic: “She worked every day for nothing until she turned 62/and on the same day that I buried her the bank foreclosed on the house too/it’s my American dream.” It’s reminiscent of Jason Isbell in sound and temperament.
The Illegal Line is flanked by heavy bass and a heavy theme; questioning where the illegality lies for an illegal immigrant: crossing the border, there being a border in the first place, or enforcing the rules: “sometimes a starving family just can’t wait.”
In the vein of Ebin by Sublime, Nikki’s A Republican Now explores the disbelief and emotional whiplash of finding out a fellow traveler has turned GOP, which may as well have been a complete personality change.
Longer than an EP but shorter than an album, My American Dream feels like a cohesive and comprehensive record for the depths it dives and the ferocity and passion of the delivery. Definitely one for fans of Jason Isbell and John Moreland, as well as those trying to keep up contemporary U.S. politics.
My American Dream is out now on EDLO/Thirty Tigers.