Songs of Innocence

erik obama

As you might have noticed from the overbearing media coverage, some of us in Europe are pretty happy about Obama winning the election. OK, the election night party at local bar Stecken was only attended by 15 people, five of whom (like Frank West from Sin & Soul Records) were actually watching the footage. But I can assure you that plenty of people stayed up all night, snacking on pretzels and drinking herb liqueurs. Or at least until 4am, when CNN called Ohio for Obama and there didn’t seem to be any way for McCain to clinch it.

In the case of my friend Mina von Sneakerberg, she’s probably happy at least partly because she won’t get lectured so much about her home country’s foreign policy so much. Mina, who manages Legowelt’s Strange Life Records, lives in the Netherlands. Once when I went with her to see Mr Wolfers and Alden Tyrell play in Rotterdam, a VJ subjected us to images of Bush interspersed with the McDonalds symbol with a red line through it. McDonalds, unfortunately, doesn’t disappear when Bush goes out of office.

Mina says the Obama victory was good, but she wasn’t 100% re-enthused about American politics. “I’m really stoked, but also really confused and grumpy that we just voted in CA to ban gay marriage. What the fuck: it was finally made legal in May, and now it’s undone.”

Meanwhile, the election has given Germans pause to think about their own voting constituencies. Jan Niklas Jansen (below) plays in local Cologne band Locas in Love. They were recently in NYC to record their new album, for which Niklas is sewing up 250 handmade felt record sleeves. (maybe the majors are in worse financial straits than I thought…). I asked him if he’d talked to any of his American friends yesterday, and he said “They seemed relieved, in part just to have something new to talk about. It’s strange because I’ve never seen people around here affected by politics like that. Being there in September, I was interested to see people care about it so much. Because people here in Germany seem so disaffected, in a way.”

niklas obama

Over in the UK, our friend Tony Nwachukwu is going to play at a victory party at London’s Plastic People club tomorrow night. He says, “I stayed up all night whatching (sic) the results on our good ol’ BBC and as the results were uncovered, the true magnitude of what was about to happen finally kicked in..
London was a great place to be with a lot of people, particularly of colour, with an acute sense of joy and freshness.”

“My son asked me if Obama was good at Parkour. I said he has the potential to be great at most things.”

I guess we’re all pretty ready to drop our cynicism, at least for a few minutes, and the moment of the acceptance speech in Grant Park allowed us to do that. The rhetoric of Obama and his speech writers harked back to America in the 60s and 70s, and not just to the dreams of Martin Luther King, Jr. It seems like back then musicians reacted to their circumstances with a kind of hopefulness that is barely believable these days, despite what Russell Simmons says. There’s obviously a reason why Obama referenced the Sam Cooke song in his acceptance speech, and why I had Aloe Blacc’s version stuck in my head throughout the campaign (I wasn’t the only one). It’s a coincidence that Obama’s campaign strategist is called David Axelrod – but when we drank French champagne last night, it was Songs of Innocence that we ended up listening to.

I’ve always preferred that album to Songs of Experience.


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