America is going to the polls to elect their next president. The election has been one of the dirtiest and nastiest in recent history. Poll after poll has come out and yet the net result is, really, we have no idea what is going to happen. Trump is a cartoon character of course, just not a very funny one. He’s a raving egomaniac ripped straight from an issue of some cruel and unusual comic strip. That’s stating the obvious. But then his opponent is Hilary Clinton, and while she’s the sane choice, she isn’t exactly squeaky clean herself. I think ‘morally compromised’ is the appropriate term. So, in the wake of electoral travesty, America stands on the precipice of an uncertain future. What can stop Donald Trump? Indie rock?
30 Days, 30 Songs (later 50 songs) is a collaborative project whose aims are to inspire Americans to vote for Hilary. The focus on independent artists and up-and-coming bands will certainly energise the youth whose political apathy is being questioned. But can a musical protest like this have any tangible effect on the vote? And besides, is any of it any good?
3O Days has Death Cab for Cutie as their frontrunner. Theirs was the first song released, and the song they have contributed stands toe-to-toe with their best work. They write a ballad from Trump’s perspective. ‘Million Dollar Loan’ is an attack on Trump’s posturing as a ‘man of the people’. The opening image of Trump watching over a cityscape from his tower, puts us in his weird and detached mind-set. Coupled with the chilly, distant music it’s a more interesting take on the idea of a protest song. Ben Gibbard writes with a softness, a compassion even. He sees the tragedy in Trump; he’s a creepy, strange guy who is hard to like, and he knows it. It sounds exhausted and sad rather than angry, which plays to Death Cab’s strengths. No one mopes quite like them after all.
There are more generic political ‘this is the movement’ songs but these are actually less interesting. In truth this collection is at it’s best when it goes at Trump and what he stands for from a more unusual angle. ‘With Love, From Russia’ is a quirky R&B song written for the Putin-Trump clandestine foreplay that is reportedly going on. It’s especially prescient given the mounting evidence that leaks that have dogged the Clinton campaign originated in Russia.
There are some more familiar faces too. R.E.M. throw in their ‘World Leader Pretend’ which is an appropriate choice. Indie stalwarts Franz Ferdinand even pass-through with the brisk two and a half minute ‘Demagogue’, which references the infamous ‘grab them by the p***y’ sound bite. Though a second song of the same name, by Latin music queen Lila Downs, is the one that really brings the fire.
Unfortunately the sheer number of songs included in this collection waters down the good stuff. Josh Ritter has a great voice but his ‘The Temptation of Adam’ lacks bite. Moby & The Pacific Choir are flat-out patronising. ‘Donald Trump Is On Your Side’ is basically three minutes of taking shots at working-class America and it feels cheap. Not to mention preachy. Their second song ‘Little Failure’ is just off-sounding, like an industrial-rock song or something. Neither of their songs work and they feel like weird detours.
The album’s greatest success is drawing up a couple of genuinely great tracks from unlikely places. Swedish expat Ledinsky has maybe the best song on here: ‘DonaldTrumpMakesMeWannaSmokeCrack’. It’s a fun, bouncy two and a bit minutes, and well, yeah, he isn’t wrong is he.
In the end it’s an interesting, if flawed collection. The project would have benefited from dropping the ’30 days’ angle altogether, and focusing on an LP of solid and more widely circulated tracks. More variety would have been good too. Perhaps the founders were unable to persuade any more big-hitters to join in. But if you want to convince Trump supporters to vote Hilary, you’d be best going after Trump’s core demographic. White, middle-aged men living in the south. They don’t listen to indie rock. It’s a bit like preaching to the converted here.
In any case 30 Days has sought to encourage conversations about Trump and the upcoming election. It has also drawn up some genuinely interesting and creative tracks, and quite a few turkeys too. I don’t think Trump’s campaign manager really cares. But as voters go to vote today, at least they’ll have a tune to whistle in the polling booth.