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Black 47 - Iraq (United for Opportunity)

23 March 2008

“Much of IRAQ is written from the viewpoint of BLACK 47 fans who have served over there. It is an attempt to distill some of their stories and emotions into song,” it says inside this album. But LARRY KIRWAN, the leader of Black 47, is no Toby Keith – he’s his diametrical opposite on the political spectrum – so this is no rah-rah “support our troops” tripe. “Stars and Stripes” is not Sousa, but a song about two soldiers wanting to go home (to the tune of “Sloop John B”), but one takes the other home in a coffin; it includes the line “Hey President Bush, what are ya doin’ to us?”

That one’s pure rock, but this band’s trademark Irish flavor with a shot of hip-hop shows up on track 2, “Downtown Baghdad Blues,” with Kirwan rapping and JOSEPH MULVANERTY playing the Uilleann pipes; the chorus features the line “I didn’t want to come here, I didn’t get to choose.” Only on “Last One to Die” does Kirwan sound merely snide, although then there’s a sample of Bush’s voice and I remember who’s the king of snide. And when the bitter “Battle of Fallujah” and the beautifully sad “Ramadi” respectively suggest Dylan and Springsteen at the top of their topical games, that’s an idea of the level on which Black 47 is capable of operating.