2017 The Music
There is an adage that says that rock music in particular benefits when conservatives are running the country. The idea is that musicians tend to hold more liberal stances, and when those ideologies are challenged, the response is in the music. But while the intersection of music and politics is certainly not new, by and large, it has been somewhat rare in popular music recently.
Quad Cities band Chrash followed 2016’s Things My Friends Say with a surprise release coinciding with the Nov. 6 primaries. Titled 2017 The Music, the album attempts to capture the year following the 2016 elections. Chris Bernat, the lead singer and songwriter for Chrash, noticed that the new songs he was writing were drawn from the headlines and conversations he was having around the new political landscape.
In an email exchange, Bernat explains, “As a songwriter influenced in my formative years by bands that would speak and write about issues of the day, I thought the time might be right to dive into concept territory … Fueled by the frustration felt as the ‘elected’ seemed to be sabotaging democracy, the music and lyrics came easier than material had in the past.”
The album opens with “Flowers of the Feel,” a song that Bernat said they started with to represent the songs the band recorded before the 2016 elections — in his words, “abstract and nebulous.” It’s a great song — I love the clean jazzy chords that open it and reoccur throughout; the buzzy guitar solo around 1:45 is a nice contrast.
It only takes a look at the other song titles to see where the album stands politically. “Demon in a White House” doesn’t name any names — it doesn’t have to. “Tweet Storm” is a tongue-in-cheek title for a swinging bare-bones instrumental interlude anchored in bass and drums that wraps up in a minute.
The lack of a lot of politically topical albums like 2017 The Music may be due to the fact that a lot of musicians have taken to social media to express their frustrations rather than to the studio. Is this a result of society’s inability to consume messages in large doses, or is it that the musicians are afraid of alienating their fans? Maybe it’s some of both. I still prefer my protests in the form of song. And by making their latest album topical in nature, Chrash have shown the listener a new and compelling side to the band.
This article was originally published in Little Village issue 254.