Shift, ‘Watch it Burn’ Album Review

Watch it Burn by Shift, *** Stars

When I came up with the slogan for Freethunk “You’re not crazy, they are!” it was meant to be tongue in cheek, but also to represent the need for freethinking entertainment. Entertainment that reminds you that you’re not alone and that not believing the gods is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. So when I find a band that doesn’t mind posting the infamous atheist “A” on their official site, of course I want to plug them. I won’t simply say their music is good because they have leanings towards freethought or atheism–that would be disingenuous. But that’s the best part about Shift–their music does kick some ass!

You can download the latest album “Watch it Burn” at www.shiftband.net for free. However, if you’re a supporter of the Freethunk concept of a competing culture of ideas against the predominant superstitious culture and the Christian subculture, then buy the expanded album for 4 bucks (I mean it’s 4 bucks!). Why? Because it includes a cover of “Dear God” originally by XTC, one of the more interesting interpretations, and also an Anthrax cover of “In My World.”

It’s hard to nail down the style of Shift, but there is an old school metal feel to the crunch of the guitars and the vocals range from rage to softness, something I appreciated since so many new bands I test out just growl on their records and call it a day. I prefer melody mixed in with the pounding. We tend to call it progressive metal now, but back when I was growing up we called it “power metal.” Power metal is basically metal that wasn’t thrash or necessarily speed metal, but it did stomp on the heads of hair metal bands with their embarrassingly weak song structures.  It had a toughness, a competence, if you will, that made you feel like you were listening to true metal (if there is such a thing). Shift has that competence. It’s not perfection–they are experimenting–but you are listening to a band that loves its craft and is going make you pay attention as they are “not just another band.”

Lyrically, you’re going to find that they are indeed lyrics–not a blunt atheistic view thrown in your face, but word-crafting that may or may not mean what you think (artists, can’t they just be blunt? Ha! Never!).  Seeing as how the album title is “Watch it Burn” with the cover art showing the earth on fire the lyrics all seem to tie into destroying ourselves or allowing our leaders to destroy us. I kept having the name George Bush pop up in my head as one of the culprits and I couldn’t help but think of the past ten years of Iraq and Afghanistan and even the economical mess we’re in.

I can tell you that the song “War is Peace” has to be Orwellian. 1984 has been my favorite book since childhood. The song is a reminder that we’ve been tricked again. With the Republicans and some conservative Democrats telling us how to fix the economy and how it was the “new leader’s fault” I can’t help but wonder what our world economy would be like without all the bloodshed. I’m not naive enough to think that we can adapt the principles of Gandhi into the government, but for Christ’s sake, how much have we spent on the military alone in the United States while Americans are suffering–including education where our kids are falling behind in math and science. “Peace is peace” and the apocalyptic bonehead Bush wasted both lives and money trying to avenge his father on Saddam. Killing is bankrupting the United States.

Whoops, off on a tangent–but that’s what the music makes me think about and it is a satisfying release of anger. Because we should be angry at seeing the world burn for the sake of a few.

Rob \m/ (as he signs his name) hinted that they are working on a release with an atheist theme when I received an email response. That would of course be awesome and Freethunk will most definitely highlight it. The metal genre has always had more advantages when it comes to expressing views on religion–we expect them to be anti-authoritarian–but there can be a lot of truth found buried in those lyrics that nonmetal fans might appreciate.

If you’re a metalhead freethinker, download this one. If you’re an eclectic listener (metal is one of my first loves, but I like classical and folk music too) then take a chance. Four bucks helps support an “out” band growing in its musical talents.

A Reason to Like Miley Cyrus as She Comments on The Big Bang

This one would have passed me by if it were not for a post on Facebook: Miley Cyrus says “Forget Jesus”?

Every child star eventually gets dumped on and faces a backlash due to a popularity that reaches its peak. I’m not a fan of Miley Cyrus’ music (there’s nothing wrong with it, per se, but I’m a bit too old for it), but I have to admit to watching Hannah Montana when it first came out. It reminded me of the sitcoms I grew up on–cornball humor and obvious stereotypes (Jason Earles as Hannah Montana’s brother is hilarious). After Hannah hit big and Miley became a household name it was pretty much assumed she fell in step with the country music attitude of God and country.

Well, Miley seems to have an appreciation for science. According to the Huffington Post she tweeted on The Big Bang about it being beautiful with a quote by physicist Laurence Krauss: “You are all stardust. You couldn’t be here if stars hadn’t exploded… So forget Jesus. Stars died so you could live.”

So really, Miley didn’t actually say “Forget Jesus,” she was simply quoting using a picture. She did, in a manner of speaking, give approval to the quote by tweeting it. When Christian fans fired back with criticism Miley said, “How can people take the love out of science and bring hate into religion so easily? It makes me sad to think the world is this way.” and then quoted Albert Einstein: “Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.”

I’m a bit impressed considering this is a teen pop princess now emerging into adulthood. She has also shown her support for gay marriage. Certainly, Miley is no atheist, but I hope she continues her love for science.

If you want to see the original pic that was tweeted, Dwindling in Unbelief has it here…

One of the Best Songs on God Ever

This is the video for “Dear God” by XTC from the eighties album Skylarking. I mention it occasionally and was listening to it again today as I worked. The album itself is a terrific entry into the eighties music line up, but the song “Dear God” is one of the best songs ever sung or written on the subject of the almighty. It is catchy, sarcastic, biting and tears into the idea of God by literally saying, “I can’t believe in you because…”  I know someone will say that by doing this the lead singer is recognizing God by talking to him directly, but I would say this is obviously artistic license with a nudge-nudge (I’m not really talking to God, I’m talking to Bible believers). It can be interpreted as atheistic but most certainly agnostic. And if some deity were to hear, he/she/it would at least know the reasons for the disbelief.

I know someone will also think, why be angry at God for the fault of humans? Well, that’s sort of the point too. Why believe in a god that makes no difference when we humans have to figure out how to get along, deal with nature’s destruction and cure disease by ourselves. Don’t believe in a fantasy that doesn’t do anything, believe in each other (like doctors, peace negotiators, and scientists who come up with results).

This YouTube version is nice since it includes the lyrics. It has also been covered by Tricky and Sarah McLachlan.