Yesterday evening / very early this morning, depending on where you live, Machine Head released “Bastards” as their new single (video below) from forthcoming album Catharis… and with it brought forth the full weight of the lower depths of the interwebz.
I’m grateful that my facebook friends list are actually intelligent, either liking it or not, passing reasoned comment one way or the other. I’ve seen “Love the lyrics, the music though…?”, I’ve seen “What on earth were they thinking? Too much of a departure for me” and pretty much everywhere in between. And on the usual websites, of course, we have the “I’ve hated Machine Head since they started, never listened to them, but I heard 20 seconds of this new one so want to rant about it and tell people that I still won’t listen to a band I’ve already said I hate” brigade.
I’ve seen comments calling out Robb Flynn for having the gall to release a protest song, comments stating that “Nobody wants to be preached at by the bands they like”. Really? How many copies did American Idiot shift? Say what you like about U2, but “Sunday Bloody Sunday” wasn’t exactly returned to the distributors for melting down. The Dead Kennedys’ “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” is straight to the point and one of Napalm Death’s permanent setlist items.
The Boss’ “Born in the USA”? Protest song (look it up). Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi”? Protest song. Rage Against The Machine’s entire back-catalogue? Credence Clearwater Revival, “Fortunate Son”. Edwin Starr, “War”. Bob Marley and the Wailers, “Get Up, Stand Up”. Public Enemy, “Fight The Power”. John Lennon, “Imagine”. Bob Dylan, “Blowin’ in the Wind”. Billie Holiday, “Strange Fruit”; a song so inflammatory in its day due to its anti-racism message that it was turned down by multiple record labels for fear of retaliation should they market it.
Protest songs after protest song after protest song. So don’t tell me that people don’t want to be “preached to” by recording artists. Some people just don’t want to listen to lyrics that disagree with their own viewpoints… and that’s fine. But to say a song is rubbish or shouldn’t be released, just because of the subject matter is petty and pathetic. Even NWA’s “Fuck Da Police”, despite the rather up front and dangerous message, has its place.
“Bastards” was always going to be a contentious inclusion on Catharsis and the decision to release it as a single is, I feel, a brave and risky one. It’s going to stir up the bottom-feeders… but it’s also going to get people talking about the album which is good publicity. It’s risky as it’s not representative of the other songs on there, at least in terms of musical style. There’s a chance people who may be considering purchasing the album think this is what it’s going to be like, so don’t bother. Well, read our review to put your mind at ease. Or wait till it hits Spotify and listen to it all before forking out your cash for the whole thing on CD.
My own opinion? For what it’s worth, I love this song. I think it’s one of the best tracks they’ve ever written and it gives me goosebumps. On the other hand, I recognise that it’s very different from their other material and I don’t expect them to go down this track with the next album being wholly based on this style. They’re spreading their artistic wings and have hit a winner.
So if you’re all upset that Robb Flynn, an individual you’ve probably not met, has released a song where he tears into a president and a system that you (somehow – my opinion) think is acceptable then that’s fine. Roll with it. Ignore it. Don’t buy the album. And thanks for giving a ton of publicity to the song and the album for the rest of us who are hoping it’s on the setlist for the tour.
Oh, and head to Revolver where Robb throws down “Bastards” in a great acapella/poetry slam performance.
Catharsis is out on January 26th and available for pre-order now.