Wednesday, April 27, 2011

99. Buzz Barker & the Atomic Bums, "Land of the Free" (1979)


Buzz Barker = Curtiss A. The Atomic Bums = the Suicide Commandos + keyboardist Mark Goldstein, who wrote the song, and a few others. This Minneapolis one-off was recorded for the Twin Tone double-LP anthology, Big Hits of Mid-America Vol. III, and it's a scorcher. Both Curtiss A and the Commandos were known for their live acts, which only rarely made it to vinyl. But this is one of those times, with a meditation on American values right in front of the Reagan revolution ("1980's just around the corner," Curtiss A broods as an aside at one point, which I recall as a frequent preoccupation of his at the time). In a lot of ways it seems more relevant than ever: "I like money but I hate the rich / They run this place and the rest of us bitch," it carps, going on to rhyme "home of the brave" with "learn to shave," "Jesus saves," "Sam & Dave," "the New Wave," and "we're in our graves," and it stretches out all kind of ways: Chris Osgood gets a tidy guitar solo. Goldstein sends it into ultra dimensions with haunting lovely long notes near the end. And the band absolutely cooks all through. Sometimes I just have to sit back and gape, still. This was a lift-and-drop needle operation on my stereo for most of the summer that it was released, a constant prelude to leaving my studio apartment and going on all my adventures, day job as delivery van driver, summer school classes, and out at night to the Longhorn to see touring and local punk-rock acts. But it's not just the nostalgia talking when I laud this song so ardently, because I don't think you had to be there to grasp its fundamentals. You just need to listen to it.

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