PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

The Poster Children: On the Offensive

Christine Klunk

Listening to the Poster Children's mini-album of protest songs dredges up the complicated emotions that many of us have been trying to avoid since the disastrous result of the 2004 Presidential Election.

The Poster Children

On the Offensive

Label: Hidden Agenda
US Release Date: 2004-09-21
UK Release Date: 2005-01-24
Amazon affiliate

Listening to and reviewing a politically charged record that came out pre-Election Day, after the big Dubya has been re-established in the White House, is a depressing, frustrating, infuriating, and quietly reassuring experience. Part of me wants to toss the disk into the trash can or scratch it all to hell against a cinderblock wall and then return to my self-imposed retreat from current events. Another part wants to break out into hysterical laughter, allowing a few pent-up tears to escape as well, at the thought that all these anti-Bush albums would actually make any difference in voter turnout. As if anyone in the middle chunk of the United States listens to Angry Indie Kids. And then finally, I think, well, he's only allowed four more years, and there's a senate race in 2006, and really, how could Kerry have cleaned up this gigantic mess anyway, and I should just be glad that musicians are willing and happy to speak their minds on issues like these. Hence, the quiet reassurance. I'm glad that artists have seized the microphones that they've always got shoved in their faces anyway, and said/sang/screamed something worthwhile and meaningful -- even if it didn't swing the election.

So, obviously, listening to the Poster Children's mini-album of protest songs dredged up the complicated emotions that I think many of us have been trying to avoid since the disastrous result of the 2004 Presidential Election. The album is called On the Offensive, as they and many other bands were in the months preceding November 2.

This little release from the Illinois indie rock veterans shows The Poster Children at their sharpest and tightest. They released their ninth studio album at the beginning of 2004, and put out On the Offensive at the end of September. Featuring only six tracks, the band decided to go with covers of early '80s "songs of warning and dissent" rather than overly optimistic protest anthems from the '60s. These songs address the rise of the fundamentalist Religious Right -- an eerie revolution made more frightening by its steady and seemingly unstoppable gathering of power and influence. So instead of the Young Bloods and Quicksilver Messenger Service, The Poster Children chose such classics as "Clampdown" from the Clash, "We Don't Need This Fascist Groove Thang" by Heaven 17 and Husker Du's "Divide and Conquer".

Not only did the band pick spot-on songs that speak directly to the politics of fear that currently dominate this country, but singers/band founders Rick and Rose spearhead the urgency conveyed in the original versions of these songs. Guitarist Jim and drummer Matt create exhilarating and tightly wound rhythms and melodies. On the Offensive goes from sarcastic pop on "The New World" to barely contained volatile energy on "Clampdown" and "Let's Have A War". Even without the message, these songs are worth listening to again and again.

Stepping back to look at the bigger picture -- looking at what this album was originally meant to do -- is still depressing, frustrating, infuriating and, yes, quietly reassuring. Listening to these six songs post-election definitely calls into question the worth of that whole voter turnout initiative that still resulted in a lost election. But we should also remember that this election saw the largest surge in youth-voter registration in decades. In fact, that age group gave Kerry his only decisive victory. The supposedly apathetic generations X and Y were the angriest and most active in this election. There's no way to tell how much of an effect politically active musicians had on the election, but the fact that artists and young people can be so passionate and vocal and smart keeps that spot of quiet reassurance alive amidst the shocked depression that struck millions immediately following George Bush's re-election.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and a grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.


Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.


Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.


Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.


In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.


The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.


The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.


When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.


20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.


The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.


Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.


Kimm Rogers' "Lie" Is an Unapologetically Political Tune (premiere)

San Diego's Kimm Rogers taps into frustration with truth-masking on "Lie". "What I found most frustrating was that no one would utter the word 'lie'."


50 Years Ago B.B. King's 'Indianola Mississippi Seeds' Retooled R&B

B.B. King's passion for bringing the blues to a wider audience is in full flower on the landmark album, Indianola Mississippi Seeds.


Filmmaker Marlon Riggs Knew That Silence = Death

In turning the camera on himself, even in his most vulnerable moments as a sick and dying man, filmmaker and activist Marlon Riggs demonstrated the futility of divorcing the personal from the political. These films are available now on OVID TV.


The Human Animal in Natural Labitat: A Brief Study of the Outcast

The secluded island trope in films such as Cast Away and television shows such as Lost gives culture a chance to examine and explain the human animal in pristine, lab like, habitat conditions. Here is what we discover about Homo sapiens.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.