CD Review of Body of War by Various Artists
Recommended if you like
Pearl Jam, Rage Against the Machine, Public Enemy
Label
Sire Records
Various Artists:
Body of War

Reviewed by Greg M. Schwartz

B
ody of War is a new documentary about Iraq war vet Tomas Young, who was paralyzed just five days after arriving for duty. The songs on the two-disc soundtrack were hand-picked by Young for having helped inspire him during his struggle to adapt to his new physical limitations. The tracks span a variety of moods and genres from rock and punk to folk and hip-hop, covering everything from melancholy to rage.

Highlights include a new anti-war song by Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, “No More,” which was written specifically for Young and here features a guest spot from Ben Harper. Pearl Jam also contributes a chilling live version of Bob Dylan’s classic “Masters of War.” Many of the songs on the collection have been widely heard before, but hearing tunes such as System of a Down’s “B.Y.O.B.,” Rage Against the Machine’s “Guerrilla Radio,” Bright Eyes’ “When the President Talks to God,” John Lennon’s “Gimme Some Truth” and Neil Young’s “The Restless Consumer” in this context lends the songs a renewed immediacy, highlighting their ever-increasing relevance.

Hip-hop and punk are well represented too, demonstrating how anti-war sentiment transcends musical boundaries. Tunes such as Michael Franti & Spearhead’s “Light Up Ya Lighter,” Public Enemy’s “Son of a Bush” and Immortal Technique’s “The 4th Branch” demonstrate the strength of hip-hop’s political side and put apolitical bling pushers like 50 Cent and Jay-Z to shame. Immortal Technique’s critique of the mainstream media is one of the greatest anti-establishment cuts you’ll never hear on the radio. Then there’s Talib Kweli’s “Bushonomics,” featuring a guest spot from historian Cornel West, who chips in lines like “We go from bling bling to let freedom ring.”

Bad Religion’s “Let Them Eat War,” Against Me!’s “White People for Peace,” No Use For a Name’s “Fields of Agony” and Bouncing Souls’ “Letter from Iraq” show that the punk community has a political side as well (but where’s Pittsburgh’s Anti-Flag, arguably the most political punk band of all?) “White People for Peace” has one of the most melodically addictive choruses to come down the punk rock pike in some time.

There’s plenty more on this two disc set – Rage’s Tom Morello dons his Nightwatchman acoustic persona to deliver a moving “Battle Hymns,” while Bruce Springsteen offers a deep cut with “Devils & Dust.” Kimya Dawson’s “Anthrax” is downright haunting, as is Tori Amos’s “Yo George,” which clocks in at an all-too-brief 1:25, but her moving ode to “the madness of King George” cuts deep. Laura Cantrell’s “Love Vigilantes” offers a touching country song about a vet wanting to see his wife and kid, and Ben Harper’s “Black Rain” is a super-funky take on Katrina, gas prices and useless college degrees that brilliantly recalls the vibe of James Brown’s “The Big Payback.” Roger Waters chips in with “To Kill the Child,” a lament similar to Harper’s in theme but with classic Pink Floyd-ian big production values.

Tomas Young has done a fantastic job of putting together a wide variety of music here, which demonstrates that the musical community of 2008 is every bit as anti-war as the class of 1968 – we consumers just aren’t getting to hear it on the corporate-controlled airwaves. With each purchase of the soundtrack also generating a donation to Iraq Veterans Against the War, there might be no better way for a pop music fan to support the troops than by buying this soundtrack.

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