George W. Bush Singers, George Mann & Julius Margolin & Friends, Steve Brooks, and Basin Street
Reviewed by Greg Beets, Fri., April 22, 2005
Instantaneous obsolescence is the inherent risk of all politically themed entertainment. Just ask master JFK impressionist Vaughn Meader, whose career died in 1963, preceding his physical demise by 41 years. JFK also inspired Sing Along With JFK, a 1962 album combining snippets of Kennedy's oratory with peppy musical arrangements. Therein lies the inspiration for Austin's George W. Bush Singers and their debut Songs in the Key of W (True Believer). Bush, of course, isn't revered for public speaking, and that's what makes this souvenir of his regime so much fun. Using Bush's own words as rope, the Singers explain why it's important to have a "Peeance Freeance secure Iraq" and define Condi Rice's role in the administration ("She's an Unsticker"). "Deep Thoughts (Part I)" achieves comic release by stringing together random Bush malapropisms against a safe-as-milk go-go beat. By contrast, George Mann & Julius Margolin & Friends' Hail to the Thief II: Songs to Send Bush Packing! (Running Scared) suffers from a pre-election born-on date. Like the Philadelphia Eagles world champions T-shirts incinerated just after the Super Bowl, the overall tone of this 20-song compilation is too hopeful. While there are moments of poignancy like Joe Jencks' "Dear Mr. President," the staid, Mark Russell-style humor of George Mann's "I'm George W." and Mark Levy's "Son-of-a-Bush" fairly reeks of genteel Volvo liberalism. Austinite Steve Brooks' "BushWhacked" gives us Bush-bashing with a Texas twang. His EP of the same name also features the clever "Inhale to the Chief," originally written for the O. Henry Pun Off. Ironically, the best song of the lot, "America, My Dream," never mentions Bush, though the repudiation of his presidency is inherent. Despite its unwieldy title, Basin Street's Bush Says: Rock & Roll Is America's No. 1 Defense Against Terrorism is only vaguely political. In fact, the album kicks righteously through 10 movements of New York Dolls-fueled psychobilly testimony that makes you want to scream along. "Down at the White House" forgoes verbally attacking Bush in favor of unleashing soul-stirring rock intensity as a weapon of mass salvation, liberating the White House for those who would smoke and drink for Jesus.