Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello was in Toronto over the weekend playing under the guise of the Nightwatchman, the retribution-wreaking folkie who sings acoustic protest songs mostly directed at the Bush Admin.
As Morello bellowed, in his Leonard Cohen-esque baritone, damning tunes of Bush's Katrina failure or Guantanamo, I couldn't help wondering what the future is for this kind of political folk. And not just protest folk but music motivated by politics in general.
Over the last eight years you can credit Pres Bush for at least one worthwhile accomplishment - he inspired a wealth of angry musical ideas. But the political mood these days feels dramatically different. It's not that we're all ready to just forget W.'s wreckage, but it feels as though there's less anger out there, and people want to feel positive despite continued uncertainty.
Does this mean anti-war songs will cease once Obama takes office, even though war will undoubtedly continue? It's hard to say, but we can probably look towards a sharp decline at the least. And with that in mind lets look at a few notable anti-Bush records from the last eight years, in particular order of rank.
Neil Young - Living With War (2003) - Nothing veiled about this damning song cycle about Bush's foreign policies, most specifically in Iraq. Young has described the record as "metal folk protest music."
Radiohead - Hail to the Thief (2003) - Though the band has profusely denied this album's sole intention is a shot aimed at Bush, the title seems clear enough. Then again nothing Radiohead does could be so simple, so you have to read through a lot lines.
NOFX - War on Errorism (2003) - The year before Bush's re-election seemed to be a creative peak for these missives. This is the first political statement from So Cal punks NOFX and it's their ninth album. What took so long?
There's probably 30 or so other punk bands we're missing and even the Dixie Chicks should a get a nod in some regard. But the question remains what form political music will take under a new American government. Musicians will have to dog deep into their angry wells for a new topic. They shouldn't have too much difficulty with that. Maybe it's time for Canadian artists to pick up the slack. Bring on the anti-Harper concept albums.
Read this week's NOW for a live review of the Nightwatchman concert.