|(A Guided Tour of Riot Act)|
Bu$hleaguer, like Green Disease, is one of the most important tracks on Riot Act, and, like Green Disease, it unfortunately falls a bit short. It is so critical because it is Eddie’s chance to really lay into Bush, the man who embodies everything that Riot Act rebels against (and ultimately succumbs to). He is the man responsible for the collapse of the band’s world, and all the attendant fear, suspicion, confusion that follows. Here is the man who made the love and solidarity that anchors a social existence nearly impossible to come by. What should follow needs to be a seething indictment, and the song ultimately falls short (and in a way this is fitting and makes sense, but it is no less disappointing as a result
Musically Bu$hleaguer is excellent. The music is amongst the most sinister pieces the band has ever written—it stalks the listener, it looms and threatens. There is an excellent counterpoint in the seemingly casual, almost sing songy garden party music of the verses before moving back to the ominous music of the chorus. The atmosphere in this song is incredible, and is unjustly forgotten since we tend to associate atmosphere with the spacier effects of a Sleight of Hand or Can’t Keep.
Vocally Eddie is hit or miss on this. The spoken word part lacks any real sense of gravity, but that may be deliberate—a casualness that matches the banal music of the verse. Overall, however, I think the effect doesn’t quite work. It comes across as too monotonous—arguably it works when the music is casual, but the start of the song needs to have more at stake. The pre-chorus and chorus is a lot more effective. The distorted vocals take the listener back to Help Help and that similar feeling of the bottom dropping out and the world no longer making sense. There is a plaintive, almost pathetic quality to the chorus itself, with the distorted vocals begging not for accountability (which requires more assertiveness and confidence than the song can muster) but answers. Something went horribly wrong, and he just wants to know what. You can almost picture him curled up in a fetal position as the song ends, rocking himself back and forth murmuring ‘change’ to himself. He ultimately finds himself overwhelmed by the object of his contemplation. The Bush phenomena is too big, too destructive to resist.
The song pulls that part off. But the lyrics (outside of the chorus) are just not any good. There are some clever baseball lines in the second verse, but those expressions existed before Eddie appropriated them. The third verse, which should be an indictment of the times, a grand statement of outrage and disgust, is buried in a bunch of abstract metaphors, none of which are really of any consequence.
The chorus is more effective. The blackout phrasing is nicely done, and the vocal melody crawls along nicely. There are allusions to the rolling blackouts of California and the Enron debacle, that image of our world darkening, both literally and figuratively if we think of it in terms of notions of accountability and the like. There is an encroaching darkness, and we are powerless to resist—at best we can offer that weak condemnation that Bush is a liar, failing to deliver what he promised—but in the face of the social, political, and above all human costs of the administration this comes across as underwhelming, more than anything else a testament to the totality of Bush’s consequence and the destruction that followed in its wake.
OTHER SONGS IN THIS SERIES:
Love Boat Captain
I Am Mine
Thumbing My Way
All Or None
OTHER GUIDED TOUR SERIES: