"Nuclear War"
Record label: Matador
Format: 12"/CD5
Release date: 19 November 2002

With the nation on the brink of war, it’s high time that someone dusted off this great anthem and put it back into circulation again. Originally penned by Sun Ra, this anti-war gem swings harder than most, and Yo La Tengo has been known to whip this one out at live shows. The single contains four different versions of the song, all of them great in their own way. Georgia, Ira, and James sound brilliant all by themselves, but there’s a special place in my heart for the version that includes the young children singing along with them. The call-and-response method works well, and there’s something about hearing these kids enthusiastically screaming, “It’s a motherf**ker, don’t you know / if they push that button, your ass gotta go!” Perhaps such words shouldn’t be uttered by children (never mind screamed out loud by children), but the urgency of the message is more potent because of the fact that it’s carried by those so young. That and it’s just a lot of fun to listen to. Version three includes free jazz experimentation, clocking in at over 15 minutes in length. Adding to the cacophony are a few guest musicians: Daniel Carter and Sabir Mateen on saxophone, Roy Campbell, Jr. on trumpet, Susie Ibarra on timpani, and Josh Mandell on percussion. The single wraps up with a remix by poet/MC/producer Mike Ladd. It makes perfect sense for him to be on board: much like Sun Ra claimed that he was from Saturn, this self-described “Starship Nigga” also believes that space is the place. With intergalactic rhythms on lock, Ladd places this timeless protest tune on rocket number nine and takes off into the deep cosmos. Hopefully, Herman “Sonny” Blount is pleased with the results.


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