Various Artists

Peace Not War, Vol. 2

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Released a month before the 2004 U.S. presidential elections, Peace Not War, Vol. 2 is a collection of 37 songs on two discs, one called "Beats" and the other "Chords." Everything was chosen from artist submissions, which means that, besides big names like Michael Franti, Faithless, Ani DiFranco, Anti-Flag, and quite a few groups off the Quannum label, there are a bunch of little-known musicians, as well. That's not to say there are poorly produced, messy songs on here. Thanks to easy access to reasonable home recording equipment, the tracks all have a professional quality to them, and many of the lesser-known indie artists (Son of Nun for example) sound every bit as good as their more famous counterparts. The musicians, all from the U.S., the U.K., and Australia, fall easily into the left side of the political spectrum and do a good deal of Bush/Blair/Howard bashing and questioning of the war on terrorism, especially those included on the "Beats" disc, which makes sense, as hip-hop generally tends to deal more directly and candidly with whichever issues it addresses. The "Chords" disc, with both hard electric and soft acoustic guitars (which, when in back-to-back songs, can be an almost unsettling combination), instead speaks about the broader themes of war, poverty, racism, deception, and government (an exception being the Rub's tongue-in-cheek "George Bush Is an Islamic Fundamentalist," which is about as far from inconspicuous as you can get). The intention of Peace Not War, Vol. 2 is to excite and anger as many young liberal voters as it can to stand up and speak out for what they believe in, so the album's producers are careful to choose songs that shy away from promoting aggression or extreme revolution or that focus too much on conspiracy theories. Instead, the tracks concentrate more on peaceful protest and on convincing the listeners of the injustice of war, both in general and in the Middle East. There are some weak points, where the line between sappy and poignant is crossed (Robb Johnson's "The Day the World Said Stop the War," or Liquid Blue's "Making Up," for example), but for the most part Peace Not War, Vol. 2 is a good mix of sounds, good for non-violent rallies that want to motivate the participants or for a listener who wants find music that supports his political views.

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