Outernational Brings the Revolution with a Free Download
You have the new Outernational album, right? It’s all over the web. If you don’t, grab it for free (or throw some money at the band if you’re one of the few who have any). It’s a concept album about Mexican immigration: music doesn’t get any more relevant than this. Todos Somos Illegales: We Are All Illegals is an important moment in US rock history: many others (including Woody Guthrie, who gets covered here) have chronicled the cynical cycle of exploitation faced by immigrants from south of the border, but this album goes deeper than most. It’s also a good listen: as biting and insightful as the mostly English-language lyrics are, it’s a lushly produced, frequently gorgeous mix of brooding Mexican melodies set to rock and ska rhythms, along with some ferocious ska-punk and gypsy punk tunes and even a klezmer punk song.
“Why do people come here from all over the world? Because you’ve fucked up the rest of the world even worse than what you’ve done in this country.” That’s one of the many between-song samples here. The band alternates these between the songs, caustically and amusingly pillorying the cynicism and hypocrisy of the anti-immigrant movement. La Migra can demonize illegal immigrants til the cows come home, but in the end, somebody’s got to pick the strawberries. Through a mix of Gogol Bordello-ish oompah gypsy punk, an unexpectedly ferocious klezmer-punk romp, a majestic hip-hop/metal anthem featuring Tom Morello on guitar, and a creepy Mexican funk tune done as reggae (with darkly lurid vocals by Mexican rocker Ceci Bastida), the band paints a withering picture of the despair and disappointment that waits for anyone brave enough to go up against the Mexican desert, the Rio Grande and the rednecks waiting on the other side.
The best song here is First Among Equals, a brutally sarcastic arena-rock march lit up by an unhinged, noisy metal guitar solo, mocking the futility of American exceptionalism:
There’s blood on the streets and blood on your hands
The same blood that’s in my veins, as the blood on the sand
If these words draw blood,the emperor is doomed…
The first among equals are the worst of all alltime
There’s also a version of the Woody Guthrie classic Deportees, updated for a new century; a brooding backbeat rock song that might be a chronicle of the new generation of Americans, or just a parade of redneck Texans on their way to a revival meeting; a bitter account of an immigrant hidden away in a secret (and probably privately operated) prison; a surprisingly purist, oldschool soul song; and the triumphant Que Queremos (What We Want), a gorgeously accordion-fueled anthem for a new century.
Immigrants tend be smart people. They’re ambitious, they want a better life and they’re unafraid of drastic change. A cynic might say that drastic change is something they’ve become used to: after all, economic depressions always hit the third world harder than the first since the gap between rich and poor there is even worse than in the so-called developed nations. Americans’ choice now is either to embrace these people and the rich cultural traditions they bring with them, or face the consequences of failing to acknowledge the reconquista. That’s what some immigrant advocates call America’s shifting demographics. If we do this right, we can make this a reconquista for everyone and take back this country from parasites like Romney so that todo el gente – immigrants and nonimmigrants, Anglos and Latinos alike – can share in the promise of what America still represents despite all indications to the contrary.