It is hard to write a genuine modern political song that isn’t misunderstood or written off as juvenile.
There are specific styles of music whose history is fundamentally tied to pure political expression (punk and folk) – hearing anything that isn’t political in those genres runs the same risk of being misunderstood or not taken seriously. I think this is a reason why the Ramones were so important (getting way off-track).
There is something very honest about Old Town Crier’s latest release (July 1), You, and the way he approaches the political subject matter of his lyrics. He reminds us that to be political is to be human and vice versa.
There’s an interesting juxtaposition between the music and the lyrics that not only creates an unexpected message but an accessible one.
The opening title track, ‘You’, takes us down a nostalgic route through the annals of British music as influenced by American 60’s Motown music. The connotation of this style harkens back to days of lazy, rainy Sunday afternoons, writing love letters and daydreaming, listening to the Turtles or The Kinks, all the while feeling like the future is wide open.
Editors note: The cover of the latest album that for some reason is in the style of an old school British punk band, perhaps to fool the non-believers
But the lyrics don’t speak of those idyllic landscapes of post-war Britain, where the dream of America remains untarnished. Quite the opposite is true. By listening to the album “You,” we are dealt with a conflicting message of warm emotion vs. cold politics, progressivism vs. musical modernism – optimism vs. pessimism.
The dream of America is very much tarnished. Lough’s tone of voice is not angry, condescending or paranoid, however, it is compassionate. This compassion is felt in the music, which is what makes his political stance more “accessible.”
Old Town Crier is also about taking direct political action: all proceeds of the album ($2,700) went to three Progressives who ran in the US midterm elections – Christine Olivo (FL-26), Angelica Duenas (CA-29), and Derek Marshall (CA-23).
Editor’s 2nd note: believe it or not this is not actually a picture of the band Old Town Crier. It’s what comes up when you google “Old Town Crier You Massachusetts”. Goddamn but people were miserable before the invention of colored photographs. Anyway as editor I’m not allowed/supposed to put in any of my own content, and if Scott finds out he will definitely fire me, but I’ve gotta entertain myself somehow right? Editing is not the most fun work you can do without getting paid for it. Take this Scott!
The second track, “Thin Blue Line,” with all of its new-wave synth flare of Springsteen-meets-Costello is bold in its imagery, but Lough doesn’t seek to insult the listener’s intelligence by casting blame on one side or another.
Instead, he paints a very realistic picture that the “thin blue line” separates us from one another, causing more fear through division. “There’s a thin blue line, between hate and fear/the thin blue line’s never been so clear.”
Track three, “Coal River Mountain,” takes us back to Old Town Crier’s first release, with their origins of bluegrass coming back but to a backdrop of their vintage dirty guitar-blues rock outfit.
Editor’s last note since I’m definitely getting fired after this: I’m pretty sure this is a picture of the Old Town Crier band but it’s not official or anything so don’t quote me.
“Radio On” is the weakest song on the album, but probably still contains enough anthemic energy to at least get the crowd to sway back and forth a few times.
In my review of Old Town Crier’s first release, I’m Longing for you Honey in Middleboro, Mass, I had speculated that Old Town Crier was merely a “side project” for singer-songwriter Jim Lough. With his latest release, Lough’s songwriting has evolved and has revealed that he is a musician with a vision.
You was mixed and mastered by Dave Westner, while Howie Klein was the executive producer. You can find Old Town Crier’s latest release here: https://oldtowncrier.bandcamp.com/album/you