Thursday, March 20, 2014
MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: KYP HARNESS - ARMAGEDDON BLUES
Harness goes political and apocalyptical on his latest, clearly with a bee in his bonnet. The esteemed Toronto songwriter lets it all out, taking on the greedy, the powerful, the politicians, and all the perceived villains of corporate culture. It's enough is enough, for him, singing "They're traitors to the human race, an evolutionary disgrace, they're low, dishonourable men." He's channeling Dylan '63 in the lyrics, going all Masters Of War on their heads, but more Dylan '66 in the music, rushed and rough rock and roll behind him.
It's not all bleak by any means, with some humour diluting the venom, but its at the expense of the greedheads, us against them. The accusations fly, from deliberate polluting to starting wars to stealing land from farmers. There's a rushed feel to the material, as if he wanted to get out while the mood was with him, and sometimes the lyrics are undercooked, as if the first rhyme available had to do: "Slaughtering everything in sight with a machete/turning the environment into confetti." These aren't his most polished songs, but they are passionate.
Wanting to keep the finger-pointing going, Harness also tackles a couple of major crimes in Ontario history involving disgraceful justice. The Black Donnellys isn't a new story to songwriters, with both Steve Earle and Gene MacLellan tackling it in the past, but Harness does it almost as bleakly as Nick Cave. That's safe subject matter, over a hundred years old, but not so Ipperwash and the death of Dudley George. Clearly on the side of the First Nations protesters, Harness condemns the politicians who sent the riot police in to break up a peaceful protest, using transcripts from OPP radios that night. In an album that's filled with anger and the most heinous crimes perpetrated on a global scale, it's the most powerful story.