Last year saw a welcome return of the protest album and it’s good to see the momentum hasn’t slowed, Texas-based McInroe getting 2018 off to a suitably barbed start with this sparsely arranged nine-track collection of observations and commentary on the state of the world.
Recalling both the satirical bent of Tom Paxton and Arlo Guthrie, it opens with ‘Talking Talking Head Blues’, concerning the right-wing media’s all-encompassing views on terrorism that nods to Trump’s call to wall off Mexico, the extremes of homeland security measures, fake news and “Russian secret agents like that albino pederast Julian Assange” before playfully interrupting the broadcast with breaking Justin Beiber news.
McInroe describes the album as a protest against war, a remit clearly addressed on the dust bowl blues ‘Big Old River’ which looks behind the smoke and mirrors to reveal the profit motives behind fuelling conflict while, for the most part another talking blues, ‘Bombing For Peace’ is essentially a list of oxymorons such as “bombing for peace is like fucking for virginity” or “strangling the future while hoping for tomorrow”. It’s simplistic, but no less effective for that.
There’s a switch in mood and tone for the acoustic strum of ‘Christmas 1914’, a quietly wistful song that revives the legendary story of how, during WWI, the British and German soldiers declared an unofficial truce, came out of the trenches exchanged gifts and played football together.
It’s back to talking blues for the 60-second ‘Bastards and Bitches’, a flurry of invective directed at the “self-righteous pricks robbing all generations, stroking each other while the world lies bleeding”. It’s not exactly subtle, but he puts that to rights with ‘The Ballad Of Timmy Johnson’s Living Brother’, a Kristofferson-styled (‘Me and Bobby McGhee’ to be precise) story about a young man radicalised when his family, including his baby brother, become collateral damage in an Egyptian strike on a suspected terrorist with its stark chorus refrain “what a catastrophe, can you imagine a world where this is viewed as ordinary?”.
‘Nietzsche Wore Boots’ is actually a three-minute spoken word poem that, reminiscent of the 60s Beat writers, casts the German philosopher as Moses coming down from the mountain, declaring God to be dead and castigating “You who feed the hungry with stones and derision. You who love your neighbor with bombs and oppression. You who only mourn when it’s your dead children”.
It ends on an apocalyptic note of the Earth purged of mankind’s poison, only to make a full recovery and live a long life. It’s a note of optimism that echoes in the final two tracks, the slow waltzing care for thy neighbour strum of ‘The Love That We Give’, another vintage Kristofferson-like number about bringing hope to the hopeless, and the Guthrie-esque ‘we ain’t gonna take it’ album closer ‘Keegan’s Beautiful Dream’ call for change through solidarity and a shared dream of a better tomorrow with its inspirational declaration that “we are the instruments set to be played, that’ll move us from darkness out into the day”. Get in tune.
Artist’s website: www.keeganmcinroe.com
‘The Love That We Give’: