by Jeff Laughlin (@BeardsInc)
Sometimes you can get lost in the rhythm of oppression.
The collective eye-roll/sigh (or “sigh roll”) at protest music might be so loud that listeners miss the messages. The plainspoken and vaguely connected dots of protest pop generally fall short of the problems the country sees on a day-to-day basis. Of course asking pop musicians to relax their collective stranglehold on money and societal privilege proves difficult. No one really wants to give up fame or money to help their fellow humans.
Irreversible Entanglements’ self-titled EP offers a different set of protest songs. Instead of arguing with the liberal bourgeoisie to create more clatter, they offer the poems of the downtrodden set to freak-out jazz. Instead of recalling personal debts or aggressors, they offer a self-titled EP wracked with the wails of humans that have been mad longer than social media clapback can track.
Of course, recited facts can be boring like so many recent protest songs -- reading 280-word twitter nonsense over a repeated beat does not a revolution make. Culling from the progressive binaries makes for a lot of public head-nodding and fist-pumping, but the 4 songs on Irreversible Entanglements tackle tougher dilemmas. The first recited line from vocalist/activist/rapper/artist Moor Mother:
Not only do we disappear/ we hang ourselves and come up with other ways to find ourselves murdered./ Since the Southern flag came down ain’t nothing left but jails and burning churches/ and all them cotton fields picked bare…
This is not just an EP or a record or a jazz odyssey or any of the easy-way-out disarmaments of colloquial writer-speak, it is a call to arms with less than 1,000 Spotify spins on each incredible song. It is a long-form description of prison life on “Chicago to Texas” which doubles as an anthem for those disenfranchised and disembodied in the United States. The rattling bassline & intermittent squalls of saxophone progress the ultimate complaint: we are compliant with the system’s aberrance. They’ve passed the point of wading into the water or dropping to their knees to cry out for the creator. Irreversible Entanglements serves as moment of truth for the helpless, helping and helped alike.
The last thing we saw was fireworks symbolizing something./ Can’t tell the difference/ between America and the unknown and forever expanding and reshaping the landscape/ collapsing the poor far away/ far from any dream and wishes you had been planning on or hoping for yourself.
Symbols mean nothing if the symbols represent nothingness. In all the clamor about flags and protests, humans rarely seem to understand that arguing produces little result. Properly defined arguments seem to attract smaller audiences – the meat of contentedness is less grist than laziness. It’s more fun to scream into a void than to speak to power. Progressivism has mishandled the message while losing the audience. This record speaks directly to the uncomfortable and very quiet gap between progress and racist perpetuity; the continual and disgusting lack of left-wing movements in American movements.
When Moor Mother moves from watching fireworks to fighting World War III from mobile computers, they do not leap far. Symbols do not equal summation, sports figures do not equalize humanity. Irreversible Entanglements lay themselves threadbare upon the arguing, upon the classism, racism and privilege of the horde of derelicts enjoying manufactured ease. All the while, intricate rhythms guide Moor Mother’s particularly bleak view of humanity’s current struggle.
Momma say she gonna get her check in two weeks if we can just hang on./ Momma say she gonna try to get an advance on her paycheck/ we waiting outside./ Eviction day is here.
Why shouldn’t that view be bleak? Of all the times art has called out struggle, how can we still have the starving class? How can we still refuse unity’s beckon? How have we ignored humans this long based on man-created rivalry? When Irreversible Entanglements move to crescendo on the irrepressibly powerful, 16-minute closer “Gorgeous,” they list the names of so many African-American lives cut down by government-sanctioned violence. Why in the living hell would we argue that any lives are more important than those lost?
Funny thing, those are the questions IE leave out. That’s on us. When we hear EVICTION DAY IS HERE amidst clatter and heavenly horns – it should be a call to action. Grim as it may be to do so, questions can be answered. Humans can hear these struggles. We can see them and understand them. That we choose not to is the crime of the current century.
In a time where the truth has never been so easily accessible, ignoring the urge to help mankind should not be the focus of protest. Irreversible Entanglements does not present us with a simple problem. The songs do not quote history. This brilliant record does not preach from text or hold over the listener some gleaming answer.
Instead, we are shown the truth: we are watching people die and not doing a goddamned thing to help. Tough to reconcile any other understanding than that one. And as the music ebbs and darts alongside Moor Mother’s vocal interplay, the questions keep flooding.
Must be all them dead bodies/ babies clinging to their bloated mommas/ frozen/ human glaciers of a time when a choice was made/ to escape a hell coming.
So what are we gonna do about it? Sigh rolls ain’t good enough anymore. The noise of our ignorance rings louder than our inaction.