Songs You Should Hear: Anti-Fascist Punk Edition

Discussion of President Donald Trump’s possible 2020 reelection has led to a lot of usage of the “F-word”: fascism.  If you are tired of America’s rapid downward spiral into alt-right utilitarianism, this week’s Songs You Should Hear punk playlist may be for you.

“American Idiot” by Green Day

Billie Joe Armstrong is lead singer of the band Green Day.

What would an anti-fascism playlist be without Green Day’s “American Idiot”? The 2005 protest song quickly became the anthem of left-wing teens and young adults who felt trapped in  President George Bush’s right-wing world. Today’s America is as politically polarized as oil and water, and we cannot seem to wash the oily, out-dated conservative tone away.  With lyrics like, “Hey, can you hear the sound of hysteria? / The subliminal mind-fuck America,” and, “Welcome to a new kind of tension / All across the alien nation / Where everything isn’t meant to be okay,” this song was a response to the conservative hive-mind mentality brought on by the Bush administration and the Iraq War, but these words are eerily relevant to today’s political climate and with our very own American idiot currently in office.  

“Fat Lip” by Sum 41

Pictured are the members of Sum 41 at Vans Warped Tour 2010, from left to right: Deryck Whibley, Steve Jocz (drums), Jason McCaslin, and Tom Thacker.

This iconic 2001 pop punk single from Canadian rock band Sum 41 expresses the frustration of being a young kid without any power to change anything in a world run by adults.  Sum 41 expresses this frustration through exaggerated exclamations of all the shenanigans that the speakers get into. The song’s exaggerated nature can be seen in the discussion of rather taboo subjects or a rejection of societal norms in general, such as in the lines, “I don’t want to waste my time / Become another casualty of society / I’ll never fall in line / Become another victim of your conformity / And back down,” and, “I like songs with distortion, drinkin’ in proportion / The doctor said my mom should have had an abortion.”  America seems to be in a radically transitional phase right now, which can be uncomfortable for its citizens, so the frustration of “Fat Lip” is still in the air today.

“California Über Alles” by Dead Kennedys

Pictured are the members of the Dead Kennedys, from left to right: East Bay Ray, Jello Biafra, D. H. Peligro and Klaus Flouride.

Changing the tone and throwing it back a couple decades to 1979, we move to “California Über Alles” by the Dead Kennedys.  The song was a response to Governor of California Jerry Brown’s bid in the 1976 presidential election and envisions a dictatorship under Governor Brown.  The titular line is a play on the German phrase, “Deutschland über alles,”  which is a nationalist phrase closely-tied with Nazism that means “Germany over everything else.”  This is the ultimate anti-fascism song, as it directly, fearlessly and unapologetically references German fascism and Nazism with the lines, “I will be Führer one day / I will command all of you / Your kids will meditate in school,” which battles alt-right logic with opposite values, such as commanding students to meditate in school rather than pledge their allegiance to the flag of the United States.  The lines, “Come quietly to the camp / You’d look nice as a drawstring lamp / Don’t you worry, it’s only a shower / For your clothes, here’s a pretty flower,” are particularly striking as they draw on well-known imagery from the Holocaust and remind us that concentration camps and Nazis did not end in 1945.

“The Only Good Fascist is a Very Dead Fascist” by Propagandhi 

The pop punk band Propaghandi was originally formed in Canada in 1986.

For our next song, Propaghandi reminds us that the only good fascist is indeed a very dead one in their 1996 punk rock anthem.  They waste no time establishing the tone and purpose of the song with the opening lines, “Swastikas and Klan-robes / Sexists, racists, homophobes / Aryan-Nations and Hammerskins / You can wear my nuts on your Nazi chins.”  Propagandhi unapologetically points out that this supposed pride for white heritage expressed by alt-right and white supremacist groups stems from achievements that could not have been made without people of color and challenges this ideology with the line, “Why don’t we start making a history worth being proud of and start fighting the real fucking enemy?”

“Know Your Rights” by the Clash

The Clash was formed in London in 1976 and played a key role in the first wave of British punk rock.

The English band famous for “Should I Stay or Should I Go” produced a catchy way of remembering your basic human rights in 1982 that is helpful for reference during this election season: “Number one / You have the right not to be killed,” “Number two / You have the right to food money,” and “Number three / You have the right to free speech.” The song comments on the rights given to people and how the hypothetical clashes with reality in the lines following each supposed right.  There is a lot of hypocrisy in the world of politics that can only be changed through voting, so know your rights and vote come next election day.

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