Dan Friel, of Parts And Labor, picks his top 10 subtly political songs
Sometimes, it’s hard to know where to start in a genre or medium. What’s the best comic book to read first? Which symphonies are essential? With Recommended, The A.V. Club asks some of our favorite pop-culture experts what some of their favorite things are in an attempt to make everyone’s lives just a little bit more well-rounded. In this edition of Recommended, Parts And Labor vocalist, keyboardist, and guitarist Dan Friel goes deep into the bowls of his record collection and comes up with 10 of his all-time favorite political tunes that go beyond the surface anti-government rants of the average agitprop punk act. Parts And Labor joins Call Me Lightning tonight at the Cactus Club.
Stevie Wonder, “You Haven’t Done Nothin’”
Dan Friel: Stevie’s super heavy, super funky attack on Richard Nixon, released the month Nixon resigned. Backing vocals courtesy of the Jackson Five.
Country Joe McDonald, “Feel Like I'm Fixin’ To Die”
DF: Equal parts brutal (“Whoopie! We’re all gonna die”), direct, and fun. Check out the footage from Woodstock where he starts the song by getting tens of thousands of hippies to just chant the work “fuck” over and over and over again.
Le Tigre, “Hot Topic”
DF: The straightforward listing of dozens of activists and icons feels so celebratory, and it totally works as an awesome “suggested reading” list.
John Coltrane, “Alabama”
DF: Coltrane wrote “Alabama” following the notorious 1963 bombing, of a Birmingham church, that killed four girls. The structure of the song is based on Martin Luther King’s subsequent funeral speech.
Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Fortunate Son”
DF: Totally rocking, totally to the point. A great anti-draft song that is still playing on a thousand rock radio stations right now.
DF: The “you are not what you own” chorus is still one of the best in the history of punk.
Public Enemy, “Fight the Power”
DF: It’s hard to pick one P.E. song to put on this list, but I can credit this song (and “911 Is A Joke”) for making the album Fear Of A Black Planet my introduction to hip-hop as a kid.
Born Against, “I Am A Idiot”
DF: My favorite anti-political-punk song: a vicious rant against people who talk incessantly about smashing the state, but do nothing.
Billie Holiday, “Strange Fruit”
DF: A beautiful song and a shockingly graphic description of lynching, originally released in 1939. This song makes me feel a little ill every time I hear it.
Man Is The Bastard, “Foot Binding”
DF: MITB’s version of punk was so brutal and willfully removed from Western rock music that the sound is a statement in itself. They produced a massive amount of political jams on a wide variety of obscure topics. This one is about the hideous misogynist tradition of Chinese foot binding.
Parts And Labor play April 20 at the Empty Bottle.