Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Chuckle-Head Song #10: A**holes On Parade, by Timbuk3

Full disclosure: in today’s election I am not a voter (read: US citizen), and I’ve heard little from either candidate to compel me to pick a side and beat the drum. Except, except ... nothing gets me cross-eyed faster than rhetoric from the so-called Religious Right. To my mind, W.’s got more in common with Ozzy Osbourne than Jesus Christ: the words issuing from his mouth are either confused, contradictory or profane. Which maybe is as accurate an indicator of the true mettle of presidential material as we're likely to get. People who get that high in the crazed arena of political celebrity aren’t saints, or even “Men of God” - they’re incredible a**holes.

But feel free to write that sentiment off as the brain-damaged ravings of a former headbanger. Lately I’ve been playing the music from the glory of my adolescence and young adulthood – punk, heavy metal, grunge – and the one thought that keeps recurring is, “Some of this stuff sure could stand an injection of humor.” Re: heavy metal, you could argue the genre is inherently humorous, but you’re only going to find one metal song on this list. And despite a sentiment that, on the face of it, converges with metal nihilism, this is not that song, and Timbuk3 is not that band. But the first time I heard them play A**holes On Parade, I laughed, and I’m laughing still.

Timbuk3 was a band pretty much doomed from its inception. They billed themselves as, “A man, a woman, and a rhythm machine,” which, although rife with pornographic possibilities, was in fact literally the case. This husband-and-wife team’s electric violin/guitar/drum machine formula achieved one-hit-wonder status with The Future’s So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades, a song dripping with venomous Southern irony, but embraced by the same cheerful yahoos who thought Springsteen’s Born In The USA was an anthem of nationalist triumph and pride. Hubby/wife acts sometimes survive if they churn out sunny love songs (Captain & Tenille), but almost inevitably end in disaster if they choose the road of caustic social commentary.

Timbuk3 were not to be dissuaded from their cause, however, even if it meant scant airplay. For most of Timbuk3’s career, A**holes On Parade was strictly live material. In fact, I first heard it at a Bob Dylan concert. Timbuk3 opened, chiefly singing stuff from the newly released Eden Alley. The stage seemed to be lit for someone else, and the duo were having trouble winning over the crowd. They finally lit into a song they guaranteed would never become the next I Gotta Wear Shades, and with that, the audience became theirs. The laughs began with the first line, and got louder as the song progressed. When they finally proclaimed, “A**holes get elected/Because a**holes get to vote,” my friend and I exchanged one of those looks of completely unexpected joy.

That particular line has become one of my cris de couer. I think it offers a surprisingly forgiving perspective. No-one is exempted from this parade, especially if you’re prone to name-calling. Heck, that’s the doctrine of fallen humanity right there! So, returning to my brothers (and sisters) among the Religious Right, I should gently offer that I might be less prone to ballistics if their spittle-laden morality rhetoric contained a modicum of (preferably humorous) self-recognition. From this perspective, the widely-reported “Mr. President, I finally feel that God is in the White House” comment from a Republican supporter could be amended from the potentially idolatrous to the more theologically astute, “Mr. President, I would like to publicly acknowledge that you are, like myself, a first-class a**hole, but here, tonight, I am tremendously grateful to you for publicly acknowledging the value of my vote.” Such a sentiment rings with a truth that might convert even me.

Complete lyrics are viewable here.

Chuckle-Head Song #9!

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