Like many of you, Rocks Off has friends and family members who have served (or are serving) in our armed forces. Memorial Day is when we honor the sacrifice so many of them have made - and are still making - fighting America's wars. Songs about the hardships suffered by soldiers and their families date back to the 19th century, but It wasn't until Vietnam that we really saw an explosion in the genre. Many of these were dedicated more to the idea of ending the war itself, but you could still find stuff like Phil Ochs' "I Ain't Marching Anymore" or CCR's "Fortunate Son" or dozens of others. Our military has been mired in Iraq and Afghanistan for almost ten years now, a situation which has given rise to a new wave of songs highlighting the horrors these kids see and questioning the reasons they were sent in the first place. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but if you're in need of something to remind you why you have the day off on Monday, Rocks Off is happy to help. 1. Reckless Kelly, "American Blood":Unless a band is overtly political, we don't always go out of our way to investigate their leanings. After all, we've been burned in the past (Ian Curtis voted for Thatcher?!?), so we were a bit surprised when country-rockers RK released this scathing indictment of George W. Bush on 2008's Bulletproof. "God bless America but god damn Uncle Sam," indeed. 2. Dixie Chicks, "Travelin' Soldier": Originally written by Bruce Robison in 1996, it was re-released by the Chicks in 2002, so we're including it. What's often lost in the controversy (the song was No. 1 on the country charts when Natalie Maines made...The Comment) is how heartbreaking the song really is. Now if you'll excuse us, we have something in our eye. 3. Rise Against, "Hero of War":This one reminds us of Ernest Hemingway's quote from 1935's Notes on the Next War. It's probably something that should be appended to every armed forces recruiting poster.
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4. Muse, "Soldier's Poem": What's that? That band that sounds a lot like a human centipede of Queen, Radiohead and Coldplay recorded a protest song? And their album Absolution was about the Iraq War? Watch these guys, Rocks Off has a feeling they're gonna be big. 5. Dropkick Murphys, "Last Letter Home": The Murphys' particular brand of traditional Irish folk music fused with screampunk is something of an acquired taste, though Rocks Off admits to enjoying them after a few pints of Guinness. Here they show their sensitive side with a cut inspired by the letters sent home from a Marine who died in Iraq in 2005. 6. Steve Earle, "Rich Man's War": Earle is known for looking at issues from an unpopular perspective ("John Walker's Blues"), and does so again here. Chris Taylor aside, you don't fight a lot of wealthy people in the infantry. 7. The Decemberists, "Sixteen Military Wives": When Rocks Off thinks of the Decemberists, we don't automatically picture protest music, but this is a decent effort. And as Houstonians, we can't help but be taken in by the Rushmore-themed video. 8. Ian Brown feat. Sinead O'Connor, "Illegal Attacks": Another British perspective, this time pleading for the soldiers to "come home." The title of the track refers to the crazy assumption that the Bush Administration somehow misled us into invading a country that wasn't a direct threat to us and didn't play a role in the 9/11 attacks. Oh, that wacky Ian Brown.