“You Can Have the World” (Cameo)

The Booker T. Washingtonian vision to complement Reaganesque politics: hygiene, positive thinking, and the elision of the social become keys to Black success. Status (being “new”) ablates the spatial (“hell”/ghettoes) and is mirrored by clean, tight, concise funk: shimmering synths and ultra-high crescendos. The “positive tip” loves subjugation.


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“Master Race Rock” (The Dictators)

American version of “All the Young Dudes,” strafed with irony, in which 60s rock activism is replaced by anal-obsessive cleanliness, sports, sleep (“gasoline shortages” make no difference if you’re napping), and a generalized affirmation of childishness (“we’re scared of growing old!”). This is, then, the sound of the Nixon’s “silent majority” achieving youthquake. The “master race” retains its position by mere rocking back and forth, without movement, so that the final call to arms (“let’s go!”) is represented by a quick, anticlimactic guitar fade-out. The smug violence of inaction.


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“When the President Talks to God” (Bright Eyes)

An investigation of the relationship between earthly and heavenly sovereigns, circa 2005. What happened when George W. Bush spoke to God? At root, there is a conversation. (Listen, no funny business with the “Does he ever think that maybe he’s not?” easy-substitution move!) Is it overly scripted and traditionally top-down? Or is it constitutionally performative, with a “fake . . . drawl” emerging in the proceedings? One way of thinking about this is in “Of Sanctification,” where the Methodist Church speaks with one voice: the Holy Ghost’s presence allows one to “love” fully and “walk in [God’s] holy commandments blameless.” It’s a relationship with shifting/sliding superiority, but there’s a durable sense of power-sharing. W. is/can’t be God, and the inverse holds true as well. (This is a belief that requires intense discipline, for sure.) In not being able to abide by this, the trax demands its sovereign(s) be moral, fair, and caring—a defanging. Caution: teeth grow back, and the prosthetic ones grind just as well (with proper adhesion).


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