Friday, November 13, 2009

Noughties By Nature #52: Bright Eyes - When The President Talks To God

Our label, Wichita Recordings, came together in the early months of 2000 so it makes me doubly sad as we all look back to conclude that the "noughties" was probably the worst decade for popular culture in 50 years.

UK music has been dominated by talent show contestants who in previous decades would have been happy as Redcoats or making an appearence on Opportunity Knocks, the only commercially successful "bands" being either utterly bland or part of some attempted return to the horrors of Britpop. Meanwhile the usually dependable US counter culture seemed to consist of comfortable middle class white musicians happy to make "clever" music which had nothing to say about the wider world. Where previously we'd witnessed punk, hardcore, rap and techno we now had a bunch of arty types who seemed utterly apolitical. All this matters so much more because it was all played out against a background of the worst excesses of right wing politics since the Reagan/Thatcher years with unjust "wars" being waged around the planet as the "leaders of the free world" actually claimed to be on divine missions to save the planet from "terrorists".

At the height of the madness I went to see Conor Oberst do a very rare solo show under the name Bright Eyes at London's ULU. Oberst had been the first artist released on Wichita and had been vocal in trying to prevent the re-election of George Bush in 2004. Now, just three weeks before the election, at this show he unveiled a six minute "protest song" titled When The President Talks To God that was by turn biting, funny, sad and vicious and ultimately showed up the lunacy of having the world run by a guy who was taking "orders from above". Bush won the election anyway of course but Conor went on to have the number one and two singles in America as well as two albums simultaneously enter the Billboard top ten.

He used this success to secure a slot on the high profile Jay Leno show in the US where he performed the song in its entirety wearing a ten gallon hat and showed up all of us who'd done nothing to reflect the worst of the world around us during a decade that contributed nothing of lasting cultural value.
Mark Bowen, Wichita Recordings

[YouTube (ULU)]
[YouTube (Letterman)]

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