OK, Senator Bernie Sanders is running for president. So first things first: what's gonna be his campaign song? Some folks had a little fun over the fact that Sanders actually recorded a folk album of sorts back in 1987. (He sort of talk-sings his way through classics like "This Land Is Your Land" and "Where Have All The Flowers Gone.") Not me; I think it's cool.
But a campaign needs a theme song that captures the mood of America, the pulse of the population. Reagan had "God Bless The USA" by Lee Greenwood. Bill Clinton had "Don't Stop" by Fleetwood Mac. Bernie Sanders, meet "The Factory Gates" by Kaiser Chiefs.
Bernie, if you've never seen them live, Kaiser Chiefs are on a tour of the U.S. right now. They're hitting Atlanta on May 8, North Carolina on May 9, Richmond Virginia on the 10th, Baltimore on the 12th and Irving Plaza in New York City on May 13. Trust me, they're your kind of group and put on a great show.
This band from Leeds has been one of the best rock bands of the past decade, though they''re far better known in the UK where Kaiser Chiefs came up alongside Arctic Monkeys the way Blur and Oasis did in the 1990s. No matter. Kaiser Chiefs are smart, ferociously good live and politically committed. Think The Clash.
They don't gently strum acoustic guitars like Pete Seeger and they don't sound like scolds a la Midnight Oil. They're funny, brash and deliver songs that are catchy as hell, songs ranging from their #1 UK single "Ruby" to "Every Day I Love You Less and Less" to their latest "Falling Awake." Here's "Coming Home," a song off their latest album, the hilariously titled but bracing Education, Education, Education & War. It was one of the best of 2014. (Some would say THE best.)
As you can hear, Bernie, Kaiser Chiefs have got a great sound and deal with love and sex and family and every day life. But a committed, intelligent take on the wider world is never far from their minds. Their breakout first album was called Employment (with the ferocious single "I Predict A Riot"); followed by Yours Truly, Angry Mob; then Off With Their Heads; then The Future Is Medieval and now Education, Education, Education & War. Sense a trend? You don't need to analyze their lyrics to realize this band is dedicated to social justice.
You gotta love a group that live tweets all night looking at the results of the UK election and bemoaning the slim Conservative victory. (My favorite thread was a retweet their drummer VJ did of this comment: "Staying up for this would be like staying up for Santa, except Santa has stolen all your toys and given them to his rich mates.")
The album is strong from start to finish but it's the opening track that would make the perfect campaign song for you, Bernie. The lyrics of "The Factory Gates" show a knowledge of labor history thanks to references to company stores and the like. They nail the New Gilded Age with lines like "What you thought was way too much is not enough." And they capture the frustrated feeling that no matter how hard you work, the deck is stacked against most people.
"They tell you day after day
To make your way through the Factory Gates
What you make on the factory floor
You take straight to the company store."
Pretty great, right, Bernie? It's a "man the barricades," barn burner of a tune and I can just see you mounting the stage right after this song has roused your ever-growing audiences into a call for action. At the very least, check them out so you can enjoy a few hours where someone else has to do the song and dance.
Like the best rock and roll, Kaiser Chiefs tap into frustrations and hopes and fears, letting people vent and cheer and sing along and realize whatever doubts or dreams they have, they're not alone. Things can change if we work together like a rock and roll band or like a community or -- who knows -- like a country.
Note: Michael Giltz is provided with free albums to listen to and tickets to concerts in the hope of coverage, though he receives far more music and attends far more shows than he could ever review.