By Colin Hunter
Ever since Elvis first waggled his hips on national television, young idealists have clung to the nation that rock and roll has the power to change the world. Most of the time, sadly, they’ve been wrong. But the makers of gased, a two-disc compilation released last Tuesday on RAM Recordings, are determined to change that.
The gased – an acronym for governments accountable to society and citizens = democracy – is a benefit album. Now, before you begin conjuring terrifying visions of a studio crammed with pop idols holding hands and crooning We Are the World for – gasp! – Tears Are Not Enough, consider this: the proceeds from from the gased will help pay legal defense fees for protesters arrested during last April’s Summit of the Americas in Quebec City. What’s more, the music is really good.
A little history: at April’s summit, world leaders gathered to negotiate the initiation of the Free Trade Area of the Americas, the world’s largest free trade zone. While governments and big businesses extolled the plan’s economic benefits, opponents saw it as a human rights and environmental disaster waiting to happen. So they gathered in protest. A fence was put up to keep protesters away from the proceedings. Then things got nasty. When protesters toppled the fence, riot police were dispatched, rubber bullets were shot, tear gas was unleashed and 463 people were arrested.
Enter gased. Conceived by musicians Chris Brown and Sarah Hammer and featuring contributions from some of North America’s top musical acts, the album aims to send a strong message to the powers that be: the voices of protest will not be silenced. The more copies sold, the stronger the message.
To sell copies, an album needs to have lots of good songs (or some really bad songs performed by a really cute boy band). Thankfully, gased features over two hours of great music, none of which is performed by boy bands.
The contributors include Ani Difranco, The Tragically Hip, DJ Serious, Propaghandi, The Rheostatics, and The Barenaked Ladies. Every contemporary musical style imaginable – from folk to hip hop, jazz to punk and spoken word – is burned onto the discs. There is even an audio lesson in global economics and biodiversity from Canada’s guru of green, David Suzuki and insightful liner notes by author/activist/habitual-boatrocker Naomi Klein and her partner, Avi Lewis.
Lyrically, almost all of the songs reflect the album’s political mandate, but most are so catchy and melodic that you might find yourself tapping your toes in glee rather than pumping your fist in civil disobedience.
It should be said that gased, like most compilation albums, can be a hit or-miss affair. With so many styles showcased by so many artists (there are over 30), there are bound to be some tracks that don’t tickle your fancy. But if you can’t find at least 15 songs you really dig, you’re probably in dire need of some taste. With all that music for a mere 20 dollars, buying gased is a charitable donation you can afford to make.
Good music, good cause, good God – maybe rock and roll can change the world.