Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Itunes Nomad Part IV (Canada/Cuba Edition!)

Broadcast - America's Boy

Can't you imagine this song being used, to great effect, in a film about the Iraq War by some hotshot young director in the year 2020? Picture it: the dissonant, screeching beginning, sounding like jammed radar, intercut with shots of troops in beige camoflauge braving a windstorm in that oil-rich, forsaken desert. The montage quickens, sectarian violence, beheadings, lopped off limbs, the felled statue of Saddam, mission accomplished, the looting of Baghdad... The marvelously spooky lyrics begin "Quaker toil, Texan oil..." protesters on the White House lawn, Cindy Sheehan, the furrowed, sweating brow of Donald Rumsfield... "Gun me down with yankee power/ Cockpit Tom with Army charm".... Guantanamo, Cheney, Abu Ghraib... "The eagle lands/ Cowboy corn and bugle horn". We hear echoed smippets of gunfire, distinctly military in its precise, blinding rapidity. And then the vicious, swirling build to the chorus, those haunting, clear and yet somehow detached, faceless words that make up the song's title, repeated, over and over, against a tight shot of the President, in full salute:

"American soldier, America's boy..."

Buena Vista Social Club - Chan Chan

Seeing as how to date I've only tackled those mainstays of contemporary youth cutlure, hip hop and alternative, this may be a somewhat unexpected foray into world music. From its bold, tone-setting first strums, this is a song you can breathe deep into your chest, like that other famous product hailing from Havana, the cuban cigar. Having completed, and then promptly forgotten in its entirety, only enough Spanish as required by the University of California, I can't claim to understand a single stanza of these lyrics. Yet somehow, I think I can hear the meaning, twirling around in those pained, smoky strings and horns: melancholy is universal. Leaving even the lyrical content aside, there's no denying that this is an awesomely evocative track. It's hard to listen and not to be transported, spirited away to some idyllic southern nightspot, overflowing with latina maidens in white salsa dresses, smiles glowing and shifting in hypnotic synchronization with the deep, indigenous cadence... Chan Chan indeed. Whatever that may mean.

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