there's nothing quite like timeliness. In the past, artists who wanted to register their disgust with a war would record a song and then have to wait weeks or months until a record was pressed and released. The Internet allows for almost instant communication, and an increasing number of artists are putting their thoughts to tape and then posting them on the Net for a worldwide audience within hours.
Some of these online anti-war rants could have marinated a while longer, but here, the medium is as important as the message.
BEASTIE BOYS In A World Gone Mad Rating: NNNYou can't question their motivation, and the Beastie Boys were first out of the gate in the online anti-war sweepstakes. But In A World Gone Mad is weak even by the crew's recent standards, dragged down by soft beats, cheap humour and the general impression that they don't really believe what they're saying.
ZACK DE LA ROCHA AND DJ SHADOW March Of Death Rating: NNNNNFor all Rage Against the Machine's bluster, you couldn't help but be impressed by the sheer eye-popping conviction of MC Zack de la Rocha. The impotent funk rock of Audioslave only reinforced where the fury in Rage was. The war has given de la Rocha's rants much-needed focus, and paired with DJ Shadow he finally has the beats to match. His barking of "left, right, left" is hair-raising, and Shadow's stark production gets to the heart of the matter. As subtle as an air raid siren.
LENNY KRAVITZ We Want Peace Rating: NNNLenny plays the hippy card with a tune that sounds as though it was written on the back of a pack of rolling papers. The saving grace is the presence of genuine Iraqi pop star Kazem Al Sahir, but, sadly, he's relegated to wailing over Kravitz's bland riff rock. It's a nice gesture, but short on effort.
REM Final Straw Rating: NNNMidway through recording their new record, REM offer a sneak peek with this unmixed song. A slow, understated ballad, Final Straw is allegedly an anti-war tune, but you'd hardly know it from the lyrics. Michael Stipe sounds reluctant to commit himself one way or another, so he tosses in oblique lines about weapons and love in the hopes that no one will notice. For the buttoned-down, khaki-wearing anti-war agitator in you.