Antipathy & Ideology is the third volume of the 4-volume Anthems & Antithets project. For this volume, the focus is political. Protest songs, reflective songs, “How did we get here?” songs; songs of injustice, hope and liberation. The music is at times simple, at times cinematic. The tone earnest, funny, sad or tongue-in-cheek. These are not your grandfather’s protest songs.
Brian Woodbury’s Alchemy:
Artistry + Passion = Antipathy & Ideology
We find comfort in the predictable. A familiar guitar lick or lyric cues responses — and if they’re the responses we hoped to hear, we call that recording or concert a success. Yet when our preconceptions are met, the pleasure can be superficial and, worse yet, sedative.
Brian Woodbury knows this well. Throughout his catalog as an L.A.-based composer, he shows a mastery of the craft at hand, whether it be to write Disney cartoon themes, orchestrations for an album of Bollywood covers, a honky-tonk country hymn to marriage equality, a musical based on surfing and another on Ibsen’s Ghosts.
Which does much to explain Antipathy & Ideology, the third volume in his 4-part Anthems & Antithets series. It is, first, internally volatile, like a cauldron of chemicals that ordinarily don’t blend smoothly. If we were to listen to these tracks instrumentally, we would imagine vocals that tell stories. They might be a little elusive, like some of the structures Woodbury creates for his melodies and harmonies. In fact, some of these songs do exactly that, such as the heartbreaking “Welcome To America,” recounting the perils that face undocumented workers in the U.S. Then, on “Lucy, I’m Home,” Woodbury, with legendary composer and musical visionary Van Dyke Parks, illuminates the story of an old Cuban exile in his last days with a festive yet nostalgic samba groove.
But if we reverse the presumption and imagine reading these lyrics on their own, it’s not likely we would associate them with the settings in which Woodbury places them. Thus, for example, the complicity of even well-intended citizens in the destruction of our biosphere is laid out, like an indictment, to a lovely, waltz-time tune on “While Supplies Last,” co-written with John thomas Oaks. And against all odds, the playful satire of liberal “wokeness” on “Shut Up And Listen” fits the unlikely accordion and handclap accompaniment perfectly.
The subjects Woodbury addresses can be light, like the tale of a smug son of privilege who finally gets his comeuppance, which he treats like a slapstick routine on “Jury Duty” (co-written with Phil Ward). They can be dead serious, all the more so when the message invites us to sing along to a catchy hook as on “We Can’t Breathe.” But they all dare us to think past our expectations. With music that hopscotches over genre lines, with lyrics that juggle anger and humor on issues ranging from obsession with guns to police violence to a courageous but nuanced argument against the truism of “supporting our troops,” Woodbury proves by example that each of us can facilitate significant changes in a corrupted society. We can challenge convention and come up with something fresh and full of promise.
That’s what Woodbury does with Antipathy & Ideology, a call to celebrate and dance and laugh on our way through darkness toward a better world.
– Bob Doerschuk
- We Can’t Breathe - A protest anthem. Sing along.
- Small Penis – A twisty rhythm & blues song. Small is beautiful.
- Jury Duty – A bluegrass morality tale about the danger of ignoring a jury summons
- Lucy, I’m Home – Co-written by Van Dyke Parks. The story of a senile Cuban exile and a lefty do-gooder.
- I Oppose the Troops - Suppose they gave a war and nobody came?
- Better – Three vignettes that show the personal is political, the political is personal.
- While Supplies Last – A ballad of the Anthropocene extinction.
- Good Cop/Bad Cop feat. Eric Schwartz – Police killing of an unarmed black man.
- Save the World - A letter to the future.
- Plus 11 more stirring, angry, funny, and sad songs about the state of the world. And how we’re going to fix it.
This is the third chapter of Brian’s massively ambitious four-volume song-writing master-class, to be released in four installments over the space of a year. This issue digs into the news and – in an impressive variety of musical dialects – doesn’t pussyfoot around when it comes to the current state of the world – or of individual psychologies. At the same time it delivers a procession of jaw-dropping musical moments as Brian skids through twisty harmonic shifts, takes compositional risks, pulls off some amazing coups of arrangement – while delivering songs and lyrics of proper substance. Great imagination coupled with a journeyman’s skill and a journalist’s approach to music: working fast, taking the occasional risk and not worrying too much because this isn’t Madam Bovary, while turning in high quality, high detail, minutely wrought – and sometimes brilliant – copy. A listening pleasure, worthy of study and studded with some really great musicianship, this is also a discreet cri de cour. Anyone who cares about the art of songwriting or the state of the world – or the clockwork behind how this music stuff works – should buy this record.ReR capsule review