99 artists and 99 songs for $9.99. 99 metric tons of subtly-free symbolism crushing anyone willing to support the 99%. On May 15, Music For Occupy, a group claiming to be “in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street,” released Occupy This Album, a 4-disk compilation of previously unreleased tracks featuring several never-before-heard artists. Surprisingly, this supposed amalgamation of folk nonsense has attracted a disproportionate amount of media attention—Rolling Stone even called it an “A-list soundtrack” of the Occupy movement.
“What you call protest music, I like to call movement music,” said founder of Music For Occupy and executive producer of Occupy This Album Jason Samel. While the vast reach of the compilation lacks any form of cohesiveness that would be required for a solid LP, Samel’s idea holds true—each artist on the album donated a song to the movement without concern for the time spent or lack money earned. This box set is the product of a movement, not individual performers criticizing The Man.
Samel himself contributes to the album with “Smile (Get Up and Sing),” an upbeat reggae track that urges for activism. Occupy This Album also meanders into soft folk tunes like Willie Nelson’s “A Peaceful Solution” before hurtling along at breakneck pace to the death metal of Danger Field’s “Staying Out and Calling In.” Socially conscious hip-hop, too, makes an appearance with Congressional candidate George Martinez’s “Occupation Freedom” and Nickodemus’s “A New York Minute.” Even drum circle sessions recorded in Zuccotti Park have found a home on the album with Harry Hayward’s “Occu-pie.”
With such a wide variety of genres, the listener may lose focus and skip the vast majority of the songs. Still, notable artists give the compilation minimal though much-needed appeal. The indie rock group Girls Against Boys contributes “Cash Machine,” a guitar-driven track featuring distorted vocals raging against corporations. “All Over the World” has Arlo Guthrie promoting global peace between occasional singing Telecaster solos. Yoko Ono adds “Move on Fast,” an emotionally charged, whining song displaying the singer’s penchant for rhyming words with “unity.”
The real gem on Occupy This Album, however, comes from filmmaker Michael Moore, who attempts to add the album to his list of victories against capitalism. Unfortunately, Moore chose to cover Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are a-Changin’,” resulting in possibly the most prominent case of a complete lack of self-awareness witnessed in modern times. Annunciating the lyrics too strongly and occasionally switching to spoken word surprisingly fail to turn the cover into a complete flop. This fact, however, seems to have dissatisfied Moore, who added yet another version of the same track to the subsequent CD in the set.
The skiffle verson of “The Times They Are a-Changin’” does all it can to destroy the credibility that Occupy This Album may have earned. The improvised percussion and string instruments provide awkward backing for Moore’s voice, creating what resembles a children’s song gone wrong. Moore’s staccato phrasing turns into a series livid screams that subside, only to build to a primal howl that mangles the lyrics into an indistinguishable blend of noise that no doubt cost Michael Moore his voice after the second take. Fortunately, the results of Moore’s lapse of judgment, like most of the tracks on the album, can be skipped and left to suffer in infamy.
Occupy This Album may be inconsistent, poorly structured, and musically awkward, but nearly 100 songs for just 10 dollars is one hell of a deal, especially given the fact that 100% of the proceeds go to fund those who breathed life into this work: Occupy Wall Street.
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