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A Small Salvation: Justin on Turkey’s Political Turmoil and the New Evens Album

Posted by September 29th, 2013 No Comments »

The Odds – The Evens
Dischord Records
By Justin Vela

A good song can be a small salvation.

This is true of “Let’s Get Well,” the twelfth track on The Odds, the 2012 record by DC band The Evens.

It’s a fitting anthem of hope amid bad days. Punk-legend Ian Mackaye (former Minor Threat, former Fuzagi, current guitarist/singer of The Evens and owner of Discord Records) hits out at the contrived nature of what binds and owns us:

Shaped by shapers
I should of spite them
I still end up on the cutting board
The truth is always in and around us
And the doing becomes the dying when ignored  

Last June, I thought of “Let’s Get Well” as thousands of anti-government demonstrators were tear-gassed and attacked by baton wielding riot police in Istanbul, Turkey, the city where I live.

The demonstrators’ chief crime was to “occupy” a small park in the center of the city, establishing a mini-tent city similar to that seen in New York during “Occupy Wall Street.”

It didn’t take long for the police to move in. In Istanbul and other Turkish cities, over 8,000 demonstrators were injured and four killed during the violence. A police officer fell off a bridge while pursuing demonstrators in the south of the country. He died also.

What do these demonstrations in Turkey have to do with this song by The Evens? Maybe nothing. On the other hand, many of the demonstrators were fans of Mackaye’s former band Fugazi and admired the values that originated in the DC-punk scene. The Evens are not yet a very known in Istanbul. But protests were sparked by the recognition of the same contrived nature of events and policies that Mackaye sings about in “Let’s Get Well.” The protesters also got together in a DIY-way to make some pretty good protest music of their own. More examples here and here.

That’s why the song struck me during those days, the entire album a consistent presence in my head as tear gas, uncertainty, and anger filled the streets. The frustration with the status quo was mirrored in protests around the world, from “Occupy Wall Street” a few years ago to anti-government demonstrators also taking to the streets in Brazil last month.

The message of the Turkish protesters, who opposed the government’s urban renovation projects and endemic police violence, along with the system that made both possible, were also themes in songs by The Evens and other bands admired by a generation of young, international Turkish citizens. They’ve grown up with a message from bands such as The Evens and Fugazi that they should think for themselves, even if government and big business prefer them not to.

“Our audience is your clientele,” sing The Evens in “Competing With the Till.”

The high points of The Odds are “Wanted Criminals,” “Competing With the Till,” and “Let’s Get Well.” The low-points are “Warble Factor” and the unfortunately named “I Do Myself.”

You have the same warbling guitar and energy of The Evens first record (The Evens). The same steady drumming and smooth vocals of Amy Farina, who perfectly compliments Mackaye’s growls.

If people around the world are demanding a revolutionary moment, “Let’s Get Well” is the song that can deliver it.

But the birds don’t give a damn about the markets
And the buildings they all come down in time
The truth is always everneath the garden
Imperfection perfectly out of line Contributor Justin Vela lives and writes in Istanbul. Follow him on Twitter: @justinvela.

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