various artists,
Vote in November: Anti-Theft Device
(Waterbug, 2004)

Waterbug's 2004 compilation album Vote in November: Anti-Theft Device is a bit outdated, although it was timely when released. Many of the 15 protest songs directly target George W. Bush, who's unlikely to be a problem in future elections. With many of the remaining songs focused on (former) current events, the album's sure to be of interest to future political historians. But its interest to the average listener is now dependent on the musical quality of the songs themselves.

That quality is surprisingly high.

Steve Gillette's "Wumper," a tongue-in-cheek ode to the elite of American society, manages to be both timeless and topical, and a lot of easygoing fun. Les Barker meditates on "The Civilised World" with a calm, dryly sophisticated delivery that makes his outrage disarmingly funny. On the more serious side, Kate McDonnell's "Mercy" is a hauntingly beautiful plea for reason, too sincere to be partisan.

There are a couple of weak points. Dan Bern's "Bush Must Be Defeated" is a simplistic refrain delivered in a grating monotone. And some of the songs are just a touch too glib to be memorable. But overall, Anti-Theft Device is an engaging and surprisingly deep collection, politically and musically.

by Sarah Meador
22 July 2006