Album: Steve Earle

The Revolution Starts Now, ARTEMIS
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The Independent Culture

While more circumspect American artists worry that their meek anti-war protests might harm their careers, Steve Earle is on to his second album of confrontational liberalism. Where Jerusalem (2002) was marked by a dark, haunted air, The Revolution Starts Now finds him spoiling for a fight, determined to redefine patriotism according to constitutional principles rather than presidential expediency. He can be angry, as in the swearalong attack on radio censorship, "F the CC"; facetious, as in "Condi, Condi", his ironic romantic overture to Condoleezza Rice; and morbid, as in "Warrior", a poem about modern warfare ("there are no honourable frays to join/ only mean death, dealt out in dibs and dabs"). But mostly Earle plays to his strength as a storyteller, with vivid tales of poor bloody infantry caught up in a mess they didn't make, such as the tanker driver regretting his decision to go to Iraq to haul "9,000 gallons of high test gas", desperate to get "Home to Houston", and the poor chum

While more circumspect American artists worry that their meek anti-war protests might harm their careers, Steve Earle is on to his second album of confrontational liberalism. Where Jerusalem (2002) was marked by a dark, haunted air, The Revolution Starts Now finds him spoiling for a fight, determined to redefine patriotism according to constitutional principles rather than presidential expediency. He can be angry, as in the swearalong attack on radio censorship, "F the CC"; facetious, as in "Condi, Condi", his ironic romantic overture to Condoleezza Rice; and morbid, as in "Warrior", a poem about modern warfare ("there are no honourable frays to join/ only mean death, dealt out in dibs and dabs"). But mostly Earle plays to his strength as a storyteller, with vivid tales of poor bloody infantry caught up in a mess they didn't make, such as the tanker driver regretting his decision to go to Iraq to haul "9,000 gallons of high test gas", desperate to get "Home to Houston", and the poor chump in "Rich Man's War" who joined the army to end up "chasin' ghosts" in Iraq. It's tough stuff, mostly set to low-slung raunch-rock, bookended by two takes on the title track, a call to arms whose dream of a society in which "all brought what they could bring/ and nobody went without" is as close to socialism as America allows.

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