I once had a session with a psychic intuitive that told me that my life’s theme was “Justice”. She explained that theme only applies to about 5% of the population. If The Proletariat’s latest release is any indication, singer/songwriter Rick Brown is among that 5%.
Justice has been a theme in the Proletariat’s music since the very beginning. And this album is certainly no exception. It is filled with songs about police brutality and racial inequality and gun violence. In the Trump era, the rage in singer Rick Browns voice has become even more palpable.
Many bands of this genre and era have put out new records that are mediocre at best and seem focused on a single goal; make a few bucks as a nostalgia band. They then go on tour and play half-heartedly, just wasting time until they get their pay, go home and take a nap. There is no passion, the band isn’t a cohesive unit and new music is lackluster to say the least. ( There are some notable exceptions to this rule that have been phenomenal.) The Proletariat stands in stark contrast to these kinds of bands. It’s immediately evident that their music and what it stands for remain important to them . The musicianship has only improved with age, and so has the passion. Every band member shines, with none attempting to overshadow anyone else. A true sign of a great band to me has always been a solid, singular vision shared by all of its members. The Proletariat seem to excel at this concept. And even after all of these years, they are still making exceptional music. In fact, this album may be their best.
A stand-out on the album is the fiercely anti-racist and anti-mass incarceration song,
“Incentive to incarcerate/ imprisoned, profit, product, slave/ incentive to incarcerate/ racial bias creates slaves. Prison Labor’s Cheap. They’re reinventing slavery .”
“Soft Targets” addresses the enormous gun violence issue we have in this country.
“In your search for truth/ lies offer comfort/ lies blur distinction/ lies bury lies—cowardly/ vulnerable/it’s easy when they don’t look like us.”
My favorite track on the album is the title track “Move”. This song is where Browns rage seems most evident and guttural. It’s subject is an incident from 1985 where police bombed
the headquarters of MOVE, a black liberation group, in a residential area. The fire spread to 60 building and 11 people, including 5 children, died.
I asked singer Rick Brown a few questions about the latest album and the band.
Jen: What inspired you to write this latest album?”
The album title ‘Move’ was based on the Move House bombings in Philadelphia in 1985. There had been bad blood between the Move Org and the Philadelphia police for several years dating back to 1978 incident where an officer was shot in the back, while facing the organizations then headquarters. Nine members of Move where arrested and just over the last few years a few have been released.
Jen: The band seems more fine-tuned and cohesive than ever. You must put a lot of work in. How difficult is that at this stage if the game? To find the time and energy?
Rick: I’m glad you think were sharp and fine tuned 🙂 With jobs, families and a drummer on the opposite coast its really hard to stay sharp. When we rehearse its fairly intense, but still loose and fun.
Jen: I saw you guys play on the very first date of your first tour in 30 years. How important is it for you to play in front of live audiences?
Rick: Playing in front of live audiences is the best part of being in a band. Well, this band anyway 🙂 . Song writing and piecing together songs and regular rehearsals are OK, studio time on the other hand. Meh.
As far as today compared to 30 Years ago…two different animals. The venues then could be just about anything : lofts, garages, art spaces, etc…yeah we did play a garage/giant shed in Tacoma last year, but mostly now it’s clubs.
Jen: In the current political climate, a lot of bands get pushback for being too political. What’s your take on that?
Rick: We have never actually received push back for being political but back in the day we occasionally would catch some heat for our political beliefs. It’s hard for me to understand why the very same people that champion “freedom” are so hellbent on exercising their freedoms and then turning around and wanting to deny others the freedoms they seek.
Jen: Where do you hope to see us headed as a nation? What role to you think art and music have in shaping societies perceptions?
One of the reasons that funding for the arts is often on the chopping block is that art, music, film and literature, by their very nature, demand your attention…the awareness that ensues scares our leaders. Work, eat, sleep, work, eat, sleep — a mind numbing, soulless existence for the masses will leave them little time to question authority and too little energy to resist and the status quo remains intact. I guess that sounds like a pretty grim response 🙂… For me music and the arts have always offered an alternative, a window, a hope. Whether it was Camus, Dylan or The Clash…talking about the French Resistance, Vietnam, Watergate, or Thatcher’s England, there will always be artists that question not only our leaders but ourselves as well. For that I am thankful.
I, for one, am thankful for bands like the Proletariat. Thoughtful, passionate and literate, they’ve always been a band that speaks their truth. And instead of those ideals mellowing with age, as they so often do, their message is now even stronger.