Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
Some of what the Chicago band Bailiff grabs onto in its musical creations is the basis for a lot of classic protest music. While it's presented more in the vein of Washington, D.C.-Dischord Records-heyday, Q & Not U era math rock, there's plenty of Woody Guthrie and Steve Earle spirit in them. There's pain found inside. There are observations about war and more than enough others that take on less specific, but just as pointed view on getting worked over and having no options for things to get too much better, too quickly.
There's a song, such as "Red Balloon," where Josh Siegel sings, "This is the skin that I'm sitting in/Boy, I'm trying to hide it/I've always been kind of innocent/Boy, I'm trying to fight it/Don't you hear/We never were really laughing/I'm in fear/That all of it really happened," and it seems to be a combination of being uncomfortable with his lot in life, the skin and the hand he was dealt and still being wildly shocked that it's all real, that this is what he's having to work with day-in and day-out. There is a good kick to these thoughts and these recollections, something that makes them squeal a little more, that makes them feel as if they're coming out of clenched teeth or as if there is still some more fighting to be done. They are sung like they mean something - as if the beat up man is still going to buck something fierce, when everyone least expects it.
These are warnings in places and then there are songs like, "Helicopter," which is just a discussion of the disgust that they have for what happens when you are constantly within the middle of an era of war - when that's the normal way of life, when getting deployed is just another sound bite on the local news at night. It's a song that oozes with contempt for a society that doesn't necessarily put up with war, but more is forced to put up with war when they really don't want to. It's about people proudly letting their children go off to be trained to use weapons, with the thought that they are probably going to have to use them on other living beings. It's got nothing to do with the valiant and selfless act of someone heroically defending freedoms and democracy, but more with the ugly thought that someone's children have to see and do things that no one's children should ever have to see or do. Siegel, drummer Ren Mathew and bassist Owen O'Malley draft their music as the only response they know, when it comes to the complex thoughts of identity, violence and helplessness.