I had this revelation recently about social media’s online role in the global class system where, if you think about it, social media is the dregs of every conversation. Here we are, feeling empowered by our voices and yet have to fight the struggle against the gatekeepers of the upper class region of the network to be seen and heard before we’re taken seriously.
Fringe groups now have a noticeably stronger voice too which irritates the common sense of the majority of the rest of the population to the point where people who’ve paid no attention at all are forced to fight too. Take a look at Ben Lorentzen’s album America and you don’t have to get past the song titles and cover to get the message, that Ben Lorentzen is an angry optimist. But he’s thats for all the right reasons.
The digitization of the American flag on the cover sends a message. Whether it’s a good of bad one depends on the viewer, but I think it’s designed to irritate the fringe extremists who get itchy trigger fingers when “their” symbol is fucked with. If that’s the plan, then not only am I revealing here which side I’m on by saying this, but I’ll say that this album is the accurately presented message we need now, sort of.
Lorentzen makes no secret of what he means to do when he starts off the album with the song My American Revolution when he says:
This is my American Revolution,
I have always been a wanderer,
Never quite been so alone,
Sailed across the sea on Mayflower,
Sailed across the sky to the Sun,
And I will never return,
All my bridges are burnt.
According to his site, during a good pivotal moment in his life, the ministry he and his wife used to work for fired them when he wrote that song. It was this song that was suggested he open the album with in a cinematic way. And as I have a habit of referencing movies, that triggered this:
As an Atheist, the only Ministry that’s ever done anything for me has been the one led by Al Jourgensen but as a human, I hate to see terrible things happen to such good people, but that’s a rant for another time.
My initial reaction to other songs like The Ugliest Girl In The World was that it was a little harsh before he clarifies that this is a song about social stigma, which in the history of civilization has always been tricky. For instance, Kim Davis might be the ugliest girl in the world right now, but she doesn’t have to be. Would Lorentzen embrace her?
Ugh… *shaking off the shivers. (aside) Go to your happy place Zoe, go to your happy place.
Heaps Of Ashes is a well-written pop song with a story about ending up somewhere whether you can help it or not, with banjo and harmonica it displays a morally faith-based message, which is effective for those who have never been existentialists about anything.
I also like how Lorentzen’s Masters Of War let’s the song hinge from the bass. The song has a bolder message, which if correct, challenges the military by not condoning the act of killing others behind a pile of money. It’s good enough to be used as bumper music between Amy Goodman’s reporting on Democracy Now!, but I doubt that people so drunk on bloodletting and war money would tremble under the idea of what a fictional character from a book thousands of years old would think of them.
A friend of mine and I once went to a local city church with a coffee bar and art gallery. Growing up in a religious family, I didn’t recognize any of the hymns they were singing (still don’t) but assumed they were written by someone there or, as usual, are circulated in the non-denominational mega church networks. But I do remember they weren’t very catchy like many of the tracks here. Hell, I might go to church if I could sing one of these things with everyone else!
Especially if it’s the last track Jesus, John & I, which is as glorious as any modern day “chamber music” played on those Christian hit-song album collections they sell on television. You know, where they hold their hands up in the air with their eyes closed?
Ben Lorentzen is a superb and passionate singer-songwriter with a distinct message who reveals a lot about himself but says very little under the illusion of the church. He seems to get that, but he’s still defiant whether he understands it or not. To be direct, his album America is for the timid-class, like Springsteen’s albums are for the working-class.
But there’s no lack of craft on this album. He’s a songwriter for sure and he’s got a signature sound that’s all his own, slightly underdeveloped but not without direction and he’s doing fine as a director.
If I were one of those New Atheists (only on Sundays) who didn’t tolerate any of this, I would be weary of recommending this to anyone in order to not contribute to the criminal activity of pushing Jesus onto vulnerable and ignorant people. But Lorentzen doesn’t come across as diabolical here as he makes no secret that he’s just casually seeing things his way.
If I were to take the example of The Ugliest Girl In The World, I would say that I have sympathy for the most extreme case of this vulnerability turned to ignorance called Kim Davis, where I can make some effort to reach out to her kind but I’m pretty sure the Sunday morning Atheist in me will rise like the “end times Barack Obama” and cast her into the fire, lickety splits!
But let’s say that Lorentzen were to step out of that cycle of indoctrination, there’s no doubt in my mind or any other part of me that he’s got more to say and it’s taken his America to prove that indefinitely.
Stream his album from the
list above. Also check out his
his other videos on
Get him on Twitter
*Corrections made 6:24 PM – CST – 09/05/2015