Sounds of the Revolution

Well, the Grammys have come and gone and while I’m happy Stewart Copeland is getting work again, I wasn’t really too interested. The tv was on mute and I was playing the song “Huddle Formation” by The Go! Team on repeat as loud as I thought woudn’t upset the neighbors.

Like many of you, I saw a Honda Civic commercial a while back with the song and immediately took to the internet to find out more details. I’ve listened to it every day since I first got it, and it’s seriously one of the most fun, catchiest, high-energy songs I’ve heard in a long time. Someone over at Honda’s marketing has FANTASTIC taste in music. And a willingness to take a chance or two also.

Because if you listen close to “Huddle Formation,” at around the 2:00 minute mark, you hear the chant, “The revolution has come (OFF THE PIGS), time to pick up the gun (OFF THE PIGS),” which is (I would just assume) not something Honda would want their name attached to. The chant itself dates back to the days of the angry young men and women in the anti-war movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s (along with the slightly less lyrical “Ho! Ho! Ho Chi Mihn!”). If you’ve seen the amazing documentary The Weather Underground, which details the rise and fall of the most militant of the anti-war groups, you’ll recognize it too.

But it’s really disingenuous to just label The Weather Underground and the rest of the groups from that time period “anti-war” groups. As you can tell from the chant in “Huddle Formation,” these folks were interested in more than stopping the war. In the interest of full disclosure and of filling in some details, I’ll tell you here that both of my parents were heavily involved with activist politics around that time, and were members of some of the more ardent student groups. Without going into too many specifics, I got the sense from talking to them over the years that the feeling around this time was that yes, the revolution had come; it had come all over the world, and it was coming in America.

So. Why bring all this up when discussing an indie-pop song? And a damn good indie-pop song at that? The thing that rubs me kinda wrong about the song is not the allusion to killing police officers (which probably says something about me, who knows), but the sense of misguided nostalgia I get from it. You know how sometimes people talk about how they would’ve loved to live in the ’50s or the ’60s? How everything was awesome back then and things were happening, blah blah blah … And all you can do is sit there and think to yourself, “Oh yeah, nationwide oppression, institutionalized racism, silencing free speech, zero acceptance of alternative lifestyles, etc. And that’s just WITHIN the U.S. Yeah, that’d all be a cakewalk if you could see Dylan at his prime for a few bucks and score cheap pot with little hassle.” Going along with that idea, I think there’s a nostalgia within the activist community today for a “better” time, a yearning to return to the glory days of our parents’ student activism, represented here by the chant cropping up in “Huddle Formation.” And I’m saying that’s completely misguided.

We can’t go back to those days, and we shouldn’t want to. The folks that came before us who were trying to make the country and the world a better place did some damn good work: Stopped the war in Vietnam, exposed J. Edgar Hoover’s web of illegal surveillance of innocent Americans, gave us a tradition of protest that exists (albeit in shambles) to this day, and that’s just skimming the top. But they made mistakes, and big ones too. Believing that a violent revolution was going to happen and SHOULD happen in the United States was one of them. I realize that sounds judgemental, and I completely realize that hindsight is 20/20. I’m not judging anyone here — at the time, with global and domestic politics the way they were, it made sense to some people. I get that. What I’m saying is that we, those people who want to change the way this country and world work today, right here right now, can’t afford to be looking to an ideal past that never existed for inspiration, no matter how romantic it seems. We need to step up and make our own way.

Damn, it’s late. I’m too tired to go back and make sure all that made sense right now, but there it is. Please drop a comment in the box with your thoughts. I’d like to hear from some people on this. And here’s the reward for reading through it all: some good music. What it’s all about. Enjoy.

The Go! Team – Huddle Formation

BONUS: The Go! Team – Panther Dash (Buy It)

posted by Adam

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3 responses to “Sounds of the Revolution

  1. excellent post. I completely agree with your concern that:

    “nostalgia within the activist community today for a “better” time, a yearning to return to the glory days of our parents’ student activism . . . that’s completely misguided.”

    the other aspect of that, which is much harder to claim with a straight face today, but is something I heard when i was younger, is fronting that nostalgia as an excuse for apathy and not being involved now. As in, “oh I would’ve been fighting racial oppression in the early ’60s, fighting the war in the late ’60s, fighting imperialist U.S. Latin American policy in the early ’80s, fighting Aparthied, but these days [80s – 90s] there just isn’t anything to fight against. Not like to good ol’ days.” yeah right.

    p.s. The Go! Team’s Thunder Lightening Strike was my favorite album back a couple years ago. Saw them live in Boston. I’m also impressed by Honda’s use of the track.

  2. As you might expect, I’m in complete agreement with your agreement, Matt. It seems absurd that people would think there aren’t (or weren’t) enough problems around to deal with, that they had to want to have something to fight against. Tell that to any oldster that actually EXPERIENCED the racial oppression, the war, US foreign policy, Apartheid, etc (your list was better than mine), and dollars to dimes they’ll tell you you’re a fool and to be happy all that nonsense isn’t as bad as it was. Even if there wasn’t anything to fight against (and there’s ALWAYS something to fight against), that’s something to be happy about … not bitched about.

  3. I really enjoyed the post–at least, what I could read between all of the product placement. Jeez!! I felt like I was re-watching THE ISLAND or SNAKES ON A PLANE. (“I have had it with these motherf**king snakes on this…wait a minute, hand me a Redbull first.”)

    Point is: I get it Adam. But I’m not just going to buy Honda Civics willy-nilly.

    PS: I’m coming into NYC manana (2/20) for one week. Let’s get together!

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