Thursday, December 11, 2008


Sounds of 2008
9. Randy Newman: A Few Words in Defense of Our Country

I say with no sense of satisfaction that when Dubya first got elected president I predicted the consequences would be woeful for America and the world.

Not exactly a hard call for anyone with half a brain, but in the end things turned out worse than even I expected.

It's a far from impressive record. Thousands dead in Iraq. Human rights abuses in Abu Graib, Guantanamo and elsewhere. An ineffectual response to Hurricane Katrina. Hubris and deceit on a grand scale from a closed-minded administration which refused to listen to reason.

Bush's legacy: terror unabated, America's economy in tatters, its reputation abroad in shreds.

Randy Newman nails Bush and his cronies - but real good - in A Few Words in Defense of Our Country, one of the highlights of this year's excellent Harps and Angels album. His chief weapon, as usual, is an hilarious sense of irony.

Americans aren't bad or mean, he reasons. Nor are her leaders - noxious as they are - the worst the world has ever seen. Not, that is, when compared to The Spanish Inquisition, Caligula and Hitler.

Newman also takes vicious - and completely justified - swings at the Supreme Court and Bush's misguided policy of color-coded terror.

They're obvious barbs at easy targets. But set against arrangements which echo Newman's superb movie soundtracks they work splendidly.

Although he ends with the words, "The end of an empire's messy at best / This empire's ending like all the rest," you can tell that amid the disappointment Randy still believes in the American Dream and the healing power of a good belly laugh.

And since a Norwegian university study recently concluded that people who easily find humor in real life situations outlive those who don't, I've no doubt Mr. Newman will continue as one of our sharpest social commentators for years to come.

Listen: A Few Words in Defense of Our Country:

No comments: