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Tax: Some Gypsy Folk to Buy with Your Stimulus Check

Posted by May 15th, 2008 No Comments »

Aranos – Tax
Pieros Records (2007)  


The word provokes serious political debate. The kind that is best avoided in the company of surly foreign nationals at your local watering hole.

Nevertheless, the topic has made for some great anti-establishment songwriting, even if it is hackneyed and polemic these days. Or is it?

It’s safe to say that 21st Century America wasn’t deceived for the first time when the phrase “fuzzy math” driveled from our fearless leaders’ lips in 2000.

See, today’s free market economy has plenty of new virtues. Like rewarding corporate America for disguising our sweatshop textile dependency with arrogant globalization tactics. Like utilizing today’s trade programs to exploit cheap labor abroad.

Meanwhile, tell folks in Detroit that unemployment is better now than in the 1980s and you might find yourself walking away backwards…very slowly.

Czechoslovakian musician Aranos would probably agree that the vices of our socio-economic makeup that really hit home may never really change.

Since maniacal religious zealots coined the term “tithes”, man has been paying taxes for centuries. And while some of us today are plagued with guessing what an acceptable expense to our Schedule C is, others may have to make up their numbers (luckily, Big Brother isn’t cracking down on you service industry folks yet).

Whatever your method of sharing beans with the man, hopefully you come out ahead. If not, G Dubs has your back with a little last-year-in-office ass-kissing.

If the IRS happens to find you by the balls, so to speak, you have every right to be pissed, knowing full well where your hard-earned tax dollars are being spent (50 percent, per this little tidbit of happy carbon footprint times).

Americans should realize that pleads for tax money better spent are also shared with other developed countries of the world.

Aranos (Petr Vaštl) has written an album about taxes that is more cynical than angst-riddled. In fact, Tax seems to cover every possible facet of ridicule in the conception of objectionable tax spending. A concept album this relevant to the events of the turn of the 21st Century is not to be missed.

“Innocent in the Garden” begins with a colorful glimpse at the musicianship of Bohemian-born Aranos (pronounced aranyosh). The multi-instrumentalist employs violin at the centerpiece of the album, while the sounds of church organs, upright bass, and trumpet also comprise his miniature orchestra.

The listener’s attention is immediately demanded by the soulful sound of a genuine, gypsy-folk music. The beauty lying therein is completely immeasurable to the newer artists of recent times that pursue a modern take on said genre. (I just sneezed and it sounded like ‘Gogol Bordello’.)

In the first few tracks, “I Pay Tax” and “You Pay Tax”, the idea of paying taxes is minimized by class, binding society together under a simple cause. The rolling tones of a double bass segue to sounds of street corner a capella on “Wouldn’t You Like to Know”.

By the fourth track, Tax is going places, and it’s getting deeper in both cynicism and bass.

As horns and pianos weave in and out, a hypnotic loop is created that practically disguises the message. Seems negligible, but the song itself personifies our most overlooked problem: our inability to recognize the obvious. We are funding the war that most of us protest.

Aranos is at his best when the satire is not only lyrical, but also plays through musically. The track, “With Our Killing Costumes On”, sounds silly as the title suggests. While the glissandi slides of violin are prominent in this number, the sound, oddly enough, is reminiscent to a chase scene from Looney Tunes cartoons, circa Bugs Bunny vs. Elmer Fudd era. The ridicule continues with the maddening sound of wood blocks and lyrics like “what fun, what fun, what fun, holding a loaded gun…” Ironically enough, Elmer Fudds’ role was “hunting wabbits”, but he usually ended up only injuring himself.

In “Padre Speaks”, Aranos leads a ceremony awkward enough to make most altar boys cringe. As the organ bellows in the background, it is obvious the cynicism is directed towards the Catholic Church. His sermon pokes fun at soldiers, reminding them that God loves them all, despite the senseless nature of tasks required by their jobs. The closing of this mock homily is priceless: “Give us today our ammunition, to our enemies we’ll bring attrition, deliver us from hesitation, victory to our glorious nation!”

The lyrical satire in Tax is precious, but the music itself should not be overheard. “Bus Conductor”, this album’s most engaging track, is thick in melodrama like an overcast Seattle. Casually sung lyrics about an innocent protagonist underscore the common sense of the concept that tax money is funding a war that cannot be won. The dynamics of voice and violin clash beautifully, and are taught by the shrieking quills to the bowed uprights’ waltz; a classy way of keeping the listener listening. The effect is the musical equivalent of someone grabbing you and screaming, “Not only is war stupid, but you’re helping pay for it, stupid”. But everyone knows this and accepts it, and thus, the stunning violin has reached its apex, and slows to a heartbreaking close.

It would seem hands are tied when it comes to tax spending, so, what is the answer? The ink from drawing an anarchy symbol on my wrist has faded away, too. Capitalism might always be our double-edged sword of inseparable economic class. And if you don’t want to fight anymore, then you can either play along or take the plunge.

Or, like Aranos, you can continue to resist and sleep better knowing that the answer is knowledge, and the key is continually sharing it with those who may be unaware. – (8.5/10)

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