Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Haji Is A Punk

Punk may have found its war, albeit a quarter century late. When this generation's Francis Coppola (Hal Ashby is already taken by Wes Anderson) shoots the ultimate Iraq war flick (David O. Russell's "Three Kings" was a mild preamble), there will doubtless be a scene set against mortar fire, car bombs and headless bodies, where combat-maddened American troops slam & thrash to a SoCal punk band, the violence of occupation turned inward and expended at 300 beats per minute.

Iraq 2005 is no place for acid and The Doors.

On New Year's Eve, while we stateside watched yet another bland Times Square countdown to midnight, Baghdad's Green Zone exploded to the sounds of The Vandals, who performed a one-hour concert for troops trapped in Rumsfeld's nightmare.

Didn't know The Vandals were still around. Being a stodgy Old Skooler, I believe that punk -- which long ago became another commodity, like ketchup -- should be played by angry, disgruntled teens in garages and shithole clubs. The Vandals are in their 30s, much too old to be thrashing and grunting about how Mom & the Man are fucking with your head, how your girlfriend screwed you over and stole your Misfits records, etc. But, apparently, there's a market for polished, perpetual adolescent anguish, so who am I to judge? If The Clash's "Sandinista!" didn't forever shatter the punk terrain, nothing will.

I don't begrudge those troops hungry for any taste of home. If I was stuck killing and trying to keep from dying for corporate America's latest land grab, I'd crash the walls to just about anything -- string quartets, bluegrass trios, the road company of "STOMP." God knows what's raging through their minds. That must've been one seriously wild hour of musical appreciation.

In the piece linked above, this stuck out to me:

"'Haji was a punk just like any other boy! ... Oy!' lead singer David Quackenbush screamed into the microphone, using a nickname soldiers commonly use for Iraqis."

Don't wanna seem deaf to sarcasm or "irony," but was the use of "Haji" meant to play on the troops' growing disdain for the Iraqi locals? Given the rather upbeat tenor of the piece, I'd guess that it was. Yet I wonder -- if the US was fighting, say, a Jewish insurgency, would the moniker "Hymie" slip by sans comment? I also wonder if The Vandals played that night "Allah," from their album "The Quickening":

Allah! Allah! Allah! Allah! - I studied carefully, - and I do believe - the best of heavens is to except is Islam - I hope that book is right - they promise paradise - I'm going for the bonus - of a martyr's reward - And when I fight - I know he makes me strong - And when I die - I know I can't be wrong - I know my only chance is - Allah! Allah! Allah! Allah! - The prophet has summoned us to attack - He said we must in his defense - against those who don't believe - And when I fight - I know - he makes me strong - And when I die - I know - I can't be wrong - The last day grows near - my belief takes away the fear - I made the right choice - My God's the only God - And when I fight - I know he makes me strong - And when I die - I know I can't be wrong - I know my only chance is - Allah! Allah! Allah! Allah! - When the infant girl buried alive - is asked for which crime she is slain - When the records of men's deeds - are laid open and heaven is stripped bare - When hell burns fiercely and paradise is brought here - then each soul will know what it has done - It's time to party with - Allah! Allah! Allah! Allah!

Can't say that would've been outta place at a Green Zone gig.

Does this concert mark the beginning of an Iraqi punk scene? Time will tell. But when you think about the violent lyrics & music inspired by Western consumer alienation, state power, family strife and unemployment, imagine the intensity Iraqi punks will bring. They'll make The Germs look like ABBA.