Review: Demons – “Uglier Americans”

As protest songs go, this one, yep, is pretty damn angry.

“Uglier Americans” – the new MAGA-targeting protest song, out today online, from Virginia noise-rock quartet Demons – is a furious little piece of agit-prop. And the screams, as politicians volley quips back and forth over the legal minutiae of American detention camps, are definitely well-timed and well-placed. In short, Demons thankfully cut through the media white-noise and the B.S. of it all. “Frozen hooves dragging brown kids through tent camps in Tornillo/ A fresh red washed from a second blue suit stained, just doing his job (again),” singer/guitarist Chris Matthews barks over a grungy descent that would do Elephant Rifle or Houdini-era Melvins proud. “Thanks for that insight, it’s Orwell and Atwood/ A commentary from Vox with a poignant quote from the mayor of South Bend.”

The song largely revolves around the U.S. southern border (proceeds go to RAICES, a Texas-based organization that’s fighting on that front) and divisiveness in contemporary American “debate.” And, context aside, it plays it pretty loose with lyrical structure – though the disorientation, with vocals blurted out in so much uninhibited rage, seems intentional. The guitar work, courtesy mostly of Zach Gehring, formerly of Mae, vies for the spotlight, with a kind of viscous undercurrent of punky melody. But, again and again, as Matthews rails on about “justified anger” or white nationalism or the New York Times, it’s the lyrics that give this thing its ability to break skin and breath fire.

You can debate some of the content herein – Matthews posits “the center grows louder,” though I would argue the margins and the bases are beating their chests the hardest, on both sides of the spectrum – but you can’t deny the heart of the thing. Luminaries like Marc Ribot are reinvigorating WWII-era anti-fascist tunes in the proletariat war on Trump, and, now, we can hear more young underground soldiers clamor to join the fight. This thing is not changing any minds – yeah, yeah, sing to the choir, sing to the choir – but it’s another barbed wire in an era of bloody limbs. If you voted for Trump in ’16, you might want to look elsewhere. – Justin Vellucci, MusicTAP, July 30, 2019

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