The Paragraphs Lift Bush For Lyrics

Last night I made a rare excursion out to see some live music on recommendation from a friend. Headlining the night were The Paragraphs, a combo band/art project out of Milwaukee that sets music to “found text.” They’ve released albums with lyrics solely culled from Field & Stream magazine and The Lives of a Bengal Lancer, Major Francis Yeats-Brown’s 1930 chronicle of his life and times in India and the Middle East.
Their latest – and most popular – project is “The Case for War,” which involves music with lyrics completely culled from George W. Bush speeches on the Wars on Terror and Iraq. Key to this effort is the band’s stage presence behind a large map of Iraq, presidential podium, and costumes including the standard suits and incredibly life-like masks (Bush sings, Cheney does lead guitar, Rumsfeld’s on drums, and Colin Powell handles keyboard duties; incidentally, Bush is also played by a woman, which you can’t tell from the audience’s perspective).
Friday night’s performance involved “lyrics” culled from Bush’s October 7, 2002 speech in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he laid out the “threats” Iraq embodied to the United States. Someone had worked the audience before the set, passing out lyrics sheets so people could follow along with each song.
There is something wonderfully painful listening to faux members of the administration pounding out quirky pop tunes while “Bush” warbles, “Americans must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof – the smoking gun – that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.”

In between songs “Bush” retreats to the podium, and actual snippets from the speech are played; near the end of the set “Powell” takes questions for “Bush” from the audience, and “Bush’s” responses are collage bits, some of which appear to have been culled from tracks in our (currently offline) Truthful Translations gallery.
During the performance “Bush” made a foray into the crowd and handed out CD-ROMs which contained¬†¬†this video (:30, 3.7 MB), a fake commercial for the “administration’s” non-existent album Reasons For War. The only downside to the show was the fact that the vocals were lip-synched, as they belong to a man while the performer is a woman, and there were some points where the stage action of “Bush” didn’t match up quite with the singing.
Overall, though, The Paragraphs are onto some funky combination of live collage-propaganda worth catching (although I’m not sure how often they get outside of Wisconsin). I had no idea Dick Cheney was such a guitar god…