Akin to his predecessors Woody Guthrie and Phil Ochs, songwriter Five Times August burst on the scene in 2020 playing solo acoustic at freedom rallies. Over the last couple of years, his hilarious videos have gone viral, to the point where he’s probably the most popular protest singer in the US. Another reason for that popularity is that he’s a hell of a songwriter. The man known to some as Brad Skistimas has finally assembled those songs on a full-length album, Silent War, streaming at Bandcamp. This lyrically scorching, often seethingly funny record isn’t just the best album of 2022: Five Times August brings receipts. Time may judge this a classic, as important and vivid a portrait of an era as the Dead Kennedys’ Frankenchrist.
The songs are straightforward and uncluttered to an extreme, mostly just vocals and acoustic guitar. The cheery bounce of the opening track, God Help Us All is a stark contrast to the torrent of cynical rhymes for a time of reality inversion and mass psychosis:
Citizen fools and brand new rules make everyone a hero now
Keep your distance, no resistance, only do what you’re allowed…
See no evil, bow to the needle, didn’t we turn out great?
Sick is the new health, poor is the new wealth, truth is whatever they say…
Divide and conquer, weak not stronger, everybody know your place
Do it now, it won’t hurt, dig into your own dirt, virtue found its grave
Skistimas has remade his viral hit Jesus… What Happened to Us? with a lot more energy as well. It’s less of a lament than searing cautionary tale:
Mark, Jack, Bill, Joe, they’ll teach you what you need to know,
They’ll give you your permissions and tell you where to go…
Shut your mouth, get in line, just behave or pay the fine
They’re pulling on your backbone and taking out your spine
The album’s funniest video hit is Outtayerdaminde, a rapidfire litany of Libs of Tiktok narcissism and buffoonery. Then Skistimas reaches for a scampering acoustic Dylan vibe in I Will Not Be Leaving Quietly, a defiant clapalong anthem.
This blog picked the solemnly waltzing title track as the best song of 2021, and it’s aged tragically well:
They’ve covered your mouth and tied back your hands
They did it to all of the kids
And nobody knows all the damage it’s done
And won’t ask until the master permits…
Take back your freedom and fight for your life, stand up before it’s all gone
Track six, simply titled Joe, is a venomous front-porch folk variant on a folk song that Jimi Hendrix immortalized, referencing the pullout from Afghanistan, the 2020 election and the perils inherent in having a guy with late-stage Alzheimer’s in the Oval Office. The ending is too good to give away.
Sad Little Man, probably the only bestselling single to ever appear on this page, is a creepy, tiptoeing portrait of the career bureaucrat who conspired with Jeremy Farrar and the British MI5 gestapo to launch the plandemic in 2020.
Skistimas hits a Subterranean Homesick drive in Anti-Fascist Blues, a full-band go-go blues broadside targeting cancel culture: “Make yourself a slave until you think that you’re free, dig yourself a grave for the American dream.”
This Just In is a defiant shout-out the Canadian truckers – and the funniest, most spot-on portrait of Justin Trudeau ever written. Likewise, Fight For You is tender but resolute: love during the most hideous holocaust in world history.
The most towering, haunting anthem here is Gates Behind the Bars. It could be the best song of 2022:
The geek’s in control, he’s changed his disguise
His chemical world will be your demise
He’s sick and he’s cruel and acts like he’s God
Speaks on the stage while zombies applaud
The creep’s not alone, he plots with his friends,
The forum they have is a circle of sin
There’s snakes all around who traffic and kill
They’ll dope up the world with needles and pills
Skistimas switches to piano for Lions:
Someday when the truth has been revealed
After all the effort to be healed
You will see the wounded everywhere you go
So wake up with the lions, don’t let yourself stay asleep
He winds up the album with a couple of bonus covers, a stripped-down version of the Tom Petty hit I Won’t Back Down and a Guthrie-esque Star Spangled Banner.
Thanks to the world’s #1 “misinformation spreader,” Steve Kirsch for the heads-up about this one.