Genre: Post Hardcore
Label: Saddle Creek Records
I’m not a strong man. Anyone who has ever met me would support the fact that my weapon of choice is my silver tongue and not my iron fists; the pen is mightier than the sword and whatnot. Yet regardless of this fact, there are a handful of people I would not take on in a battle of words. Conor Oberst for example, can own more face in a 5 minute EP than most people manage to do in their lifetime. His heated outlooks on politics and sociology burn right through those he has set his sights on moments before pulling the trigger on his sharp one liners.
Desaparecidos are no exception to this rule. “ManiKKKopa,” the first of the EP’s two cuts for example, targets the societal breakdown surrounding illegal immigrants in the farming communities of Manicopa County, Arizona. Oberst drops references to Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the neighborhood martyr Rob Krentz. As the story goes, Krentz, who was known in the community for being a giving man, had been making the rounds of his farm when he came across an immigrant at a well he owned. He radioed for help, asking for border patrol before going to assist the individual who appeared to be in need. Krentz and his dog would later be found resting in the dirt, bled out from gunshot wounds. Krentz’s gun was apparently still in his holster. When the national media grabbed ahold of the story, the situation became a banner moment for tougher border security, regardless of the fact that an investigation would provide evidence that drug lords might have been responsible, not immigrants. Gun sales spiked by as much as 20% in the region where the murder had taken place. The upswell and reaction to the death helped increase public support for the bill Arizona SB1070, which the state legislature aimed at combating illegal immigration. The bill was quickly passed and signed into law within a month of the killing. “ManiKKKopa” however, approaches the situation with heavy context clues, shoving into the light the propaganda behind the event. Oberst speaks from the perspective of the haves who fear the have nots in the second verse. As they leave their golf matches they discuss the ills of those intruding on their land and how their lives are in danger as a result. After all the guitar riffs and moog swells stop flying, the band uses clips of Sheriff Joe responding to the community being compared to the KKK. The clip would imply that he has no problem with the comparisons. With a 1990s post hardcore sound which slams directly into a political punk message, Desaparecidos return to recording with middle fingers in the air. There is no bullshit in the mix.
The band chooses to keep its boot on the throat for the listeners with the EP’s second track, this time taking swings at the music industry. With standout lines like “their cash cow killed himself so they’re looking for the next one,” Oberst makes it clear that he is aware that he and his peers are nothing more than pawns for a bigger paycheck scheme. Lashing out at A & R, autotune, and the way the game is played, there is a brilliance in the ironic manner that Desaparecidos bites the hand that feeds them. With a we-don’t-give-a-fuck attitude they mock manner in which music has become a joke, while managing to make music that maintains a high level of integrity. This above all, is the attachment that makes every project Oberst touches quality. At no point is he ever afraid to be real on the mix. That level of honesty is something that can neither be taught nor manufactured.
Review written by: Josh Hammond