The Iowa caucuses are being held today, which means that Republican primary season is about to kick into high gear. Spoiler alert: The candidates all suck. But you knew that already. What you might not know is that, historically, political punk songs have often been nearly as bad.
Lacking the trenchant analysis of The Economist or even Socialist Worker, the politics of punk are often as clear as the L.A. River. It's doubtful that Johnny Rotten himself even knows what an “anarchist-uh” believes. Here, then are five political punk songs that display, at best, a Cliff Notes-level understanding of the issues.
“Kyoto Now” (2002)
The problem: The lyrics are a caricature of a Bad Religion song, with the occasional “Kyoto Now!” thrown in for effect. Bombastic language like “petrochemical plunder,” “mythological hopeful monster” and “the arid torpor of inaction” don't actually succeed in proving intelligence or understanding. It just proves they like using big words.
“Bonzo Goes To Bitburg” (1985)
The problem: Puddle-thin politics piss all over a perfectly good pop song. Joey and Dee Dee were mad that Reagan presided over laid a wreath-laying on German SS soldiers' graves. They expressed this through thoughtful lyrics like “My brain is hangin' upside down / I need something to slow me down.” Johnny didn't approve of referring to Dutch as Bonzo, and the song was later re-titled “My Brain Is Hangin' Upside Down.”
“Holiday In Cambodia” (1980)
The problem: What's worse, Jello Biafra's overinflated ego or hearing him drop an n-bomb? The song's lesson — that middle-class radicals are often ignorant crypto-fascists — was lost on him, apparently.
“American Idiot” (2004)
The problem: Green Day express the half-baked, Bush-era frustrations of comfortable, upper-middle-class liberals. They've been remarkably silent on the current administration, however, even though it's doing much of the same shit. One wishes they would return to writing songs about smoking pot and jerking off.
“Public Assistance” (1986)
The problem: This “rock for Reagan” hardcore punk jam is little more than an offensive (and racist) screed against the social safety net. Lyrical gems include “When little Maria gets knocked up / She gets a free abortion” and “How come it's minorities who cry/ Things are too tough / On TV with their gold chains.” The worst part is that the band continues to perform this song live.