For a guy whose musical career kicked off in the heady, experimental company of the folks who went on to form the Elephant 6 collective, Ross Beach writes surprisingly conventional and straightforward pop songs. Country
's overall tenor is, as you might expect, vaguely country-ish in a general sense, with a pickin' and pluckin' aesthetic that's accented by rock 'n' roll flourishes.
It also bears noting that Beach has a serious bone to pick with George W. Bush. Like, a Jello Biafra-style, "he's the Antichrist and the whole country's going to hell in a handbasket" bone. In fact, Beach's litany of complaints is pretty much a laundry list of the most pressing concerns of the oppositional left in Bush's America. It seems clear that the album's title is intended as a pun; Beach's down-home sounds are intended as a commentary on the overall state of the country -- with which, it's safe to assume, he isn't pleased. The administration is evil (see, for example, "The Proverbial Shit", "The Ballad of 1999", "Can't Be Good", and most of the rest of the disc), the media is complicit ("The TV's Talkin") and we're living in the next best thing to a police state ("Monster", "Pepper").
Unfortunately, Beach often fails to live by the most important rule governing the lives of politically aware musicians: the music and songwriting must be strong enough to stand without the politics. Beach's lyrics are admirably straightforward, but not necessarily all that engaging. It's disturbing to read that his infant daughter was exposed to pepper spray at an anti-GWB protest, but lyrics like "So we gathered at the site to say what we had to say / round here it's more than a right, it's the American way" are so artless and pro forma that they detract from the story's impact. The music, strong as it is, isn't strong enough to carry the politically charged but prosaic lyrics.
Beach's intentions here are certainly noble: he clearly has political change on his mind, and efforts of this sort help to remind all of us of the value of personal and political expression in this country. Unfortunately, too many of his ideas are laid out in straightforward, manifesto-like lines, and his potential for artistry takes a backseat to his need to get the message out.