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Rock and the Reluctant Soldier

Hard-Fi takes a grunt's-eye view of the war in Iraq.
Hard-Fi takes a grunt's-eye view of the war in Iraq.

Mixing rock, ska, and dance beats, the British band Hard-Fi writes hooky songs that offer insights into the bleakness of working-class British life. Richard Archer's militant but pop-friendly vocal delivery recalls that of The Clash's Joe Strummer, with a similar ability to slyly protest the status quo within the context of infectious pop music.

"Middle Eastern Holiday" adopts the perspective of a friend going off to fight in Iraq. Mixing evocative imagery ("Where bullet holes scar the minarets / smoke on the horizon, a beautiful sunset") and more pointedly articulated concerns ("Give me a gun / I hope I see my mum again"), the song paints the picture of a 21-year-old soldier who fears for his life.

Hard-Fi wisely keeps world events on a personal scale -- "I've got a girl, is she missing me? / Watching out for me on the news on TV" -- in the process bringing to mind the grunt's-eye view favored in some of the most effective songs from the Vietnam era. Later in "Middle Eastern Holiday," Archer gets more direct in his commentary: "In the desert, the fuse is lit / I'm the one who has to deal with it." It's not the first 21st-century protest song, but it could be the catchiest.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

John Richards
John Richards is the host and producer of The Morning Show with John on 90.3 FM KEXP Seattle, and online at kexp.org. He is also KEXP's assistant program director.