Thursday, November 27, 2008
Mischief Brew - "Jobs In Steeltown" 7''
Overgrown weeds engulfing a family's dilapidated former home.
A cracked-up vacant parking lot.
An abandoned factory with most of its windows broken.
If that vintage mindset intrigues you, you might like Mischief Brew's new 7'', "Jobs in Steeltown."
There are only two tracks on this one. Side A has "Jobs In Steeltown," which is a bittersweet song about an old Pennsylvania (I assume, since they are from Penn.) steel town.
Places in Pennsylvania like Pittsburgh, Midland, Aliqiuppa and Ambridge were/are all steel towns and after doing a little Internet scavenging on these places, I couldn't help but associate the industrialized towns with Chicago's once-heavily industrial south side.
To this folk/punk tune, guitarist/vocalist Erik Petersen sings, "They need food-spooners, janitors, and prison guards/And they look out and I look in, sometimes I forget who the prisoner is."
The dynamic here is interesting. The chorus of the song is about how there are no jobs in "Steeltown" anymore, but the bittersweet part is that there are jobs; depressing jobs that do not feed productivity, rather maintain some sort of sad, working-class population stuck in the days long gone.
Mischief Brew is considered to be an anarcho-punk band, a genre I'm not really familiar with. I looked it up and found a history and discovered that many of the bands I like and even mainstream ones like Against Me! fit into this category. It seems to be a history full of DIY ethic and individual "lifestylism." It seems to be very anti-establishment as well, like the traditional punk beliefs, only this anarcho-punk genre seems to want to keep the aspect of individual importance and pride first and foremost.
Side B has a track called "The Barrel," which, to me, is a very metaphoric song. The song is about his "candy shop." Petersen sings as a scavenger, picking through flea market goods in search of treasures others overlook.
Petersen's lyrics have a hopeful underbelly to their surface pessimism. Or maybe not pessimism, but bleakness.
"Raid the scrapyard like a garden, wring life from rusty bones/My candy shop is a vacant lot where anything may grow." It begins with a bleak outlook, but finishes with a sort of, "OK. I'm surrounded by decay, but does it have to be ugly? And why do things have to be this way and that?" That's the message I saw, anyway.
Towards the end of this dark-yet-hopeful redemption song, Petersen sings, "Your scrapyard, my garden, or so the saying goes/You turn water into dead things and I'll make the dead things grow."
That verse didn't make sense to me at first, but after some thought, it's a powerful line to end the song. Everyone knows dead things are, well, dead. And with water symbolizing life, Petersen is simply saying, "You turn life into death, well I'll turn death into life." Very poetic, I dig it.
Mischief Brew has proved to be not only musically talented, embodying that folk/punk sound, but conveys strong themes and perfectly highlights the dynamic between life and death, rich and poor, and past and present.
Fans of early Against Me!, Leftover Crack and the World/Inferno Friendship Society would really appreciate Mischief Brew.