Body Of War: Songs That Inspired An Iraq War Veteran
Music is powerful. It is an art form that can help people through hard times, unite people, crush barriers and inspire. A well written song can surpass nationalities, languages and time. It can be relatable to everyone and anyone, no matter the time, place or setting. Body Of War: Songs That Inspired An Iraq War Veteran reminded me of this.
First we should get a little back-story on this release . It is an informal soundtrack to the documentary Body of War, which tells the story of Iraq war veteran Tomas Young, who, at 22, joined the U.S. military a few days after 9/11 to fight those responsible for the attacks. Two years later, instead of being sent to Afghanistan, Tomas was deployed to Iraq where he was shot and paralyzed from the chest down after serving only five days.
What that means is that Body Of War is a two disc, thirty song collection of songs that help support Young as he became accustomed to his new physical limitations. So yes, the songs are politically driven and all of these songs had been released before in some form or another between 1971 and 2008. Normally, a compilation with no unreleased tracks would be slightly disappointing but not here. The songs are powerful, emotional and work well enough together that you don’t need the hidden gems; instead they’re all gems.
Despite starting off with a slow pop-driven song by Brendan James, disc one of the compilation is a much harder disc than it’s follower. The songs are angrier, more rock-oriented and for the most part are newer songs with the oldest tracks being No Use For A Name‘s 1995 song Fields Of Agony. The disc features some well known punk acts like Bad Religion, The Bouncing Souls, RX Bandits andAgainst Me! alongside some more rock bands like Rage Against The Machine, System of A Down (and a solo song by Serj Tankian) and a brand new, unreleased, live song by Eddie Vedder which was written specifically for Young.
Unfortunately, disc one of Body Of War isn’t as strong as one would hope even with the great list of bands. It stumbles due to it’s lack of cohesion which makes it feel somewhat disjointed. In all honesty though, the problem comes from my lack of musical identity because even though this is the heavier side of the disc, it is also the R&B and hip-hop side of the disc. These songs are strong enough I’m sure, but I’m unable to relate to the style for the most part and thus the songs by Lupe Fiasco, Dilated Peoples, Immortal Technique, Talib Kweli and Michael Franti & Spearhead feel out of place to me and hinder the flow of the album.
Disc two does not suffer from that problem and it shines because of it. In dire contrast to it’s predecessor, the second disc collected by Young is much simpler, more folk based and a collection a singer/songwriter protest songs. It starts off with Springsteen‘s Devil & Dust and right away the song hits you. It then goes on to Pearl Jam doing a live cover of Bob Dylan‘s Masters Of War, Bright Eyes, John Lennon, Neil Young, The Nightwatchman and more. Kimya Dawson, who receive recent fame for the Juno soundtrack, supplies a surprising but moving song with Anthrax and Tori Amosgives a beautiful minute and a half song.The highlight of the disc and the entire compilation is State Of Union by British singer-songwriter David Ford which sounds like the song Connor O’Berst wishes he had been able to write. The only problem on the second disc are the tracks by Ben Harper and Roger Waters; both of which are too loud to fit in the flow of the second disc and would have felt more at home on the first disc.
The two discs are vastly different from one another, nevertheless, they are still united not only by the politically driven nature of the songs but also by the simple reminder that music can be, and is, very powerful.