Have you ever wished your favorite indy rock bands were just a little more right wing? Tired of annoying socialistic lyrics attached to the post-punk chords of bands like Green Day? Wish you could find some songs praising President Bush, opposing abortion and bashing Hollywood? Well, you don’t have to be an American idiot any more. Now you can listen to The Right Brothers.
The Right Brothers are two guitar-slinging brothers from Nashville plus a drummer, who’ve combined engaging pop-punk riffs with lyrics straight out of American Spectator. Their current single is “Bush Was Right“, an upbeat song which crows the successes of the Bush administration and has an amusing repeated chord sequence which sounds rather like a guitar saying “nyah nyah nyah.” It’s a cleverly written and catchy song, if a bit derivative of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” and Bowling for Soup’s “Ohio”. But for the content it’s the kind of song which could actually get airplay. They’ve even got a pretty well produced video for the song, though I don’t think you can expect to see it on Fuse any time soon. The song has also been picked up to be used in a TV ad to run on Fox News by RightMarch – coals to Newcastle, perhaps.
Another recent release, which I think is actually a better and more original song is “What About the Issues?”, a response to the hatemail they’ve been getting about their music. It’s available on their website as a free download. No video for it, but it pretty much speaks for itself.
They actually have videos for a half-dozen songs, plus a total of more than 20 songs in release. They hit on virtually every topic of current politics, with titles like “Tolerate This”, “Trickle Down”, “The Illegals”, “I Want to Live” and “This Ain’t Your Daddy’s Party”. They’ve got songs about immigration (several, in fact), the Iraq War, abortion, racial profiling and tax cuts. Some of the songs have more of a country or folk feel to them, but the guitar work is universally good and the vocals are clear and easy to understand, if not always brilliantly originally written.
Not surprisingly, they’ve stirred up a little controversy, with attacks starting to spread on the left-wing blogosphere. The tag line on their website is “the truth disguised as music,” and it’s clear that to a large extent the music here is secondary to the message, which is not to say that the music isn’t sometimes pretty good as well. Whether the approach of recording nothing but right-wing political songs is hearfelt or pure marketing is a valid question. The topics are too perfectly picked and the music in some ways too well tailored to a pop audience for me to feel that it’s completely authentic. I’d believe them more if the songs were more personal and more original.
A right-wing Billy Bragg would be a lot more believable than what sounds like a group of skilled musicians tailoring their music to a receptive and untapped potential audience. The fact that they switch styles from punk-pop to pure country so easily suggests an artificiality which I find suspicious. On the other hand, they’re not Paul Shanklin, though they are occasionally pretty amusing in songs like “The Waffle House”. They lack his glibness and they’ve got a certain earnestness, almost like a particularly dogmatic right-wing blog expressing itself musically. There’s also something sneakily subversive about their use of the same font to make their initials TRB look like the TNR used by The New Republic until fairly recently.
The marketing aspect of their efforts is interesting. Although they have two CDs and a DVD of professionally produced work available, I wasn’t surprised to find them missing from iTunes. As a rule it hasn’t been terribly easy for independent artists to break onto – doubly so for a right-wing political novelty act, I imagine. To compensate they have a very professionally done website where you can do a quick and easy purchase and download of any of their songs, videos or CDs using PayPal. You can also order physical products, including some combo packs with multiple copies of their CDs to give to any left-wing friends you might want to annoy.
The Right Brothers are not the greatest new thing in music, though many of their songs are quite listenable. They’re good, skilled musicians and decent songwriters, but that’s not enough in the crowded musical marketplace – that’s why American Idol can find contestants. They’ve chosen to target a niche market, and use that to lever themselves to greater prominence through controversy and partisan loyalty. It’s not a bad idea. They have apparently sold quite substantial numbers of their most popular songs at 99 cents each, cutting out the various middlemen of the record industry in the process. Other niche music like Christian rock has occasionally produced bands and songs which have crossed over into the mainstream. so who’s to say there isn’t room for The Right Brothers in the mix as well.