What is the day America forgot? Does the title refer to July 4, 1776, the day on which the nation declared its independence? Is it September 11, 2001, a day that the nation vowed to “never forget” (a vow that first referred to Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941)? Or is the title a generalized commentary on lost ideals? As the United States continues its fractitious presidential campaign, dividing ever more firmly into red and blue states, one wonders not only where it is heading, but how the rest of the world views the internal conflict.
Improvised trumpet and electronics are Jesse DeRosa’s & Josh Millrod’s weapons of choice to maintain freedom in a world more and more dominated by restricted and ignorant politics of hate. This description repeats the overused word “freedom” in a different context. The idea of freedom can be used to justify aggression, and while in some instances, everyone knows what freedom means (freeing the slaves, the right to vote), in others the waters are muddied (preemptive strikes based on spurious information). Grasshopper seems to be saying that it would like to be free from the talk of freedom, returning to a time in which more people agreed on the meaning and implications of the concept.
In another sense, the album may be viewed as a rebuke to shallow materialism. The titles of the two 17-minute tracks – “Blunt Force/Beermaggedon” and “Recreational Liposuction” – reflect a society more fascinated with hedonism than with human rights. The music – thick, rolling drones, sullen electronics, wailing trumpet – coalesces into a narcotic stupor, rising occasionally in anger, reflecting not only a loss of purpose but a possible reawakening. The phrase “weapons of choice” is apt, given the fact that music has been used as torture. Grasshopper turns the phrase on its head by releasing torturous music as motivation. The duo knows that patriotism does not mean defending a nation’s every action, but seeking to bring out the best in a nation and its people. Confrontation is a timeworn tactic of those seeking change, and while this music contains no lyrics, its very title is a challenge.
As the drones grow on Side B of this cassette release, one thinks of the ending of Spike Lee’s film “Do the Right Thing”: a man running through the streets, screaming “Wake up!” This ending hearkens back to that of the original “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”, which was itself a commentary on the Cold War and the human tendency to cocoon. (The pod people were in cocoons, but the humans wished to immunize themselves from thoughts of danger.) On “Recreational Liposuction”, a gentle pulse provides the lulling feeling that everything is okay. But like nagging insects or the evening news, abrasive sounds slowly move to the fore, growing until they can no longer be ignored. Sleep – literal or figurative – is no longer an option.
What has America forgotten? In the days following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the nation displayed incredible resolve. One component was certainly anger; another, loss. But also embedded in the nation’s mourning was a humble sense of shared fragility. For a few days, car horns seemed silent in New York City. Strangers greeted each other, glad to see another human face. It was said that when people started swearing and giving each other the finger again that things were back to normal. So much attention is paid to September 11 that September 12 gets lost in the mix. This too is a day that America has seemed to forget: a day in which most people, everywhere, acted their best.
There is still hope much hope for America – not the hope of the politicians, but the hope of the people. In this hope, Grasshopper concludes its comments with the invitation, “Listen. Unite. Act. It’s about time.” (Richard Allen)