War Balloons

by Guante and Big Cats

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about

mutate. evolve. transform.

"War Balloons" is Guante and Big Cats' first collaborative project since 2012's "You Better Weaponize." Building on that album's unapologetically political tone, the songs here are grounded in narrative and world-building. "Dog People" looks at the culture of white working-class resentment and the scapegoating (of immigrants, feminists, and other working people) that results from it. "You Say Millionaire Like It's a Good Thing" is a blistering remix of an older Guante song framing the uninhibited accumulation of wealth as a legitimate moral failing. In between, there are polar bears, mutants, star-crossed lovers, and all of the visionary, just-this-side-of-magical-realism imagery that the duo's older work displays. Influenced by equal parts Bruce Springsteen, Public Enemy, and adrienne maree brown's "Emergent Strategy," this is a project called into existence by necessity. As Guante recently tweeted: "screaming at this hellscape is not enough to change it, but changing it probably won't happen without the screaming."

credits

released September 18, 2018

Words and vocals by Guante except where noted.
Music by Big Cats.
Additional vocals on "Fight or Flight" by Eric Mayson.
Saxophone on "Dog People" by Nelson Devereaux
Recorded and mixed by Big Cats.
Mastered by Huntley Miller.

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Guante and Big Cats Minneapolis, Minnesota

SUPER
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PEOPLE

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Track Name: Fight or Flight
We thought the last polar bear had passed away a year ago in captivity
Until our cameras caught something interesting
Proximity alert lights at one of a hundred research sites:
A mother and a cub in the early evening light, They walked right by,
seemingly healthy, heading north
We scrambled a drone, jumped in a jeep and sallied forth
But by the time we had reached that position
no bears, not even footprints to prove they had existed
It happened three more times within a year
Never any evidence but the footage was crystal clear
So we wrote up our reports every time they appeared
And kept the video files in a folder labeled “weird”
And the solar wind danced in the magnetosphere
And what whales remained sang songs we couldn’t hear
And the ice kept right on melting
Though we wouldn’t admit it, in retrospect we felt it
And the fifth time the bears appeared we followed protocol as always:
The drone, the jeep, coordinates to chase
And again: no footprints, no droppings, no trace
And again: empty-handed we returned to base
Except where four of us had left only three of us remained
Fight or flight: we already knew his fate
.He wasn’t lost in the wilderness,
he had just decided to stay; we all knew that was okay
Next day another member of our research team
Walked off into the endless white
I nodded at him as he left and kept sippin’ my coffee
Knowing that I’d never see him again, knowing that was alright
The third scientist walked into the waves that night
Just as yet another proximity alert chimed
I brought up the camera: sector seven grid five:
The mother and the cub once again, still alive
They looked right at the camera and I
Understood what the animals implied, of course it’s right
I put my coffee cup down, stepped out the back door
And walked straight into the northern lights

The dead have no destination, only direction
The dead have no destination, only direction
The dead have no destination, only direction
The dead have no destination, only direction
Track Name: Gifted Youngsters featuring Lydia Liza
No capes never trusted a uniform
A snowflake’s chance in hell is all we need
to mutate evolve transform
Today into something these people have never seen

And I feel like flying
feel like burning this city to the ground
I feel it inside me, feel it rippin’ through
Feel invisible in the middle of a crowd
It feels so loud: vibrations on my skin
bounce, I’m a dragon I’m a king
I’m the storyteller now, paint a picture of desire
and 21 neurons fire, pow
I can’t tell you what it is
But I can tell you what if feels like
I can’t say I understand it
But I can tell you what it feels like
And nah the math doesn’t add up
But neither does the history and gifted means
we never paid attention to physics anyway
Skip ‘em all, just walked through the walls, y’all.
Let’s be our own professors (and)
Let’s profess something better (and)
Let’s redefine power (and)
Let’s lose track of the hours; yeah we’re so gifted,
just wanna unwrap though; so let’s sneak into the danger room
And make out ‘til the theme song fades out
Gifted youngsters ‘til we age out
Right: no capes, never trusted a uniform
Rotate on the crust of the universe and
Looking down through the cracks never thought I’d ever
see anybody lookin’ back
And that’s our power even if it isn’t that super, so what:
we ain’t tryin’ to save no one
You know the origin story’s
always better than the moment of glory, anyway, hold up
...the sky with this feelin’ (feelin’)
...exit through the entrance (entrance)
...backstory in the margins (margins)
...omega level in perspective
I guess we’re just children,
but it seems to me that we can fight to beat the villain
Or we can fight for a world in which
Nobody wants to be the villain, let’s go

No capes never trusted a uniform
A snowflake’s chance in hell is all we need
to mutate evolve transform
Today into something these people have never seen

I see that sword in your hand, I see that blood on your breastplate
I see the thousand dead demons in your wake I see the ache
In your muscles, the weariness in your whisper but wait:
We were trying to find the beginning
I see the fire’s ignition, I see it feed into life
Your DNA is rearranged, a mutation that might
Finally free imagination to prepare to take flight but wait:
We were trying to find the beginning
I see your character description and your narrative arc
A hero built from a cascade of multicolored notecards
I see your splash page smirk and your supernova heart but wait:
we were tryin’ to find the beginning
It doesn’t start with the vivid full color cover in fact
It doesn’t start with your sword sharp and your legend intact
All superpower to the people in these days of future past
The beginning is the moment you choose to act
Track Name: Dog People featuring Lydia Liza
My family’s always been dog people: labs and retrievers
pit bulls and mutts with no fucks demeanors
Growl like truck speakers, subwoofer to seek
Companionship, understanding it’s something deeper
Dogs: the definition of loyal and eager
who love unconditionally
…even when love should maybe have a couple conditions at least
Like, come home from doin’ dirt and look who’s grinnin’ at me, good dog, right?
...that’s the nature of obedience
It doesn’t have to be right, as long as it’s immediate
We’re dog people; sit, stay, avoid the truth
Talk about loyalty but never what we’re loyal to
We’re dog people even when we’re starin’ down apocalypse
You can’t teach an old dog new politics
Yeah we’re dog people, so much talk about honor
You could almost forget about the collar

my bark, my jagged speech
my life, my love, my leash
One bite is all they need
To put me down
my bark, my jagged speech
my life, my love, my leash
One bite is all they need
To put me down

I’ve seen anger like a loaded shotgun, a weapon
Just pointed in the wrong direction
Yeah we’re dog people: Chasing our own tails
Look at who we blame when we fail:
Scapegoats and bogeymen, always on the outside lookin’ in
And mad about the taste of the soup that we’ve been cookin’ in
but never mad at the cook,
That man is a crook, who’s rich off the labor and the land that he took
‘Cause look feminists didn’t close the factory
that family on foodstamps didn’t eat your lunch
Immigrants never offshored opportunity
The pc police never shot anyone (so who’s your real enemy?)
...and still we howl at that moon
Whimper in a kennel hopin’ our master is back soon
With that choke chain, shock collar love ‘til we break
‘Til he’s trained us to hate everything that he hates, It’s a scam

my bark, my jagged speech
my life, my love, my leash
One bite is all they need
To put me down
(how much profit is in your pain?) Put me down
(who really benefits from your hate?) So put me down
(Trained to fight until you’re dead) Put me down
(that owner makes a fortune, and you get a pat on the head) Put me down
Track Name: Bumbling Shithead Fascists
And he appears before you as flesh, all reds and oranges and yellows, pulsing impossibly like a jack-o-lantern stuffed to the brim with eels, and the cameras flash, and 63 million spiders hiss their approval in unison. And, of course, he’s naked. And everyone knows that he’s naked. And he stands there, grinning like a hundred thousand dollar watch face at ten after ten, saying look. Look at my beautiful clothes. And you look...

I feel like pop culture did not prepare me
For this flavor of authoritarian we’re facing
You know: the bad guys were always sinister and calculating
And not tuned into fox news for eight hours daily
it’s like if sauron had dropped the one ring
Into his oreo mcflurry and then accidentally ate it
Or if darth vader were constantly callin’ people haters
And then slicin’ his own fingers off with his lightsaber
...or if voldemort made all of his horcruxes
enormous golden statues of himself
Demonstrating krav maga moves he learned on the internet
If this there were a YA dystopia the editor would interject:
it doesn’t make any sense, but there you have it
A bumbling shithead fascist, is still a fascist
And the smallest act of resistance, when the emperor is naked
is to say it, and say it, and say it

And he appears before you as flesh, absorbs your gaze, smiles impossibly wider. Webs float down from the rafters like confetti. The emperor’s advisors applaud his imaginary clothes. The propagandists write up breathless headlines about how perfect they are. The cable news networks convene panels of experts representing both sides of the debate. And the emperor, naked and sweating, begins to speak about his new policy of separating children from their parents at the border...

I will never be the darling of the so-called city fathers
Whose conception of community is to colonize and conquer
I’ve already thrown my lot in with the uncouth and uncollared
Who will never bother with what the officers have to offer: no
I pledge allegiance to red flags that teach us
When allegiance is mandatory it doesn’t mean much
So take a knee or take a kneecap
Clap for the emperor or clap at the emperor
‘Cause after november it’s a long winter win or lose
And we’ll still be anti-emperor when a new one is introduced
we lit the fuse with that simple truth
Passed through classrooms, clubs, community centers and living rooms
Watch a movement blossom
Brush your shoulders off: spread a little bit of pollen
Because we know a naked emperor is not the problem
The empire is the problem

And he appears before you as flesh, waving, one last time, and you remember, that this is real, but this is also a story. That stories are told, over and over again, that stories can change. You remember: that this particular story isn’t actually about the emperor. It isn’t about who sits at the center of the circle; it’s about the circle. It’s about us. What dialogue we write for ourselves. Whether we are protagonists or side characters. You remember: that we write our own stories. We write our own stories. We write our own stories. And that this one, is not over.
Track Name: Wrenches
Quest log neverending, inventory low
No medkits nothing but a wrench and direction on my minimap
Black t-shirt, fitted cap and a bouquet
of a dozen arrows in my back
How are you? We both know better than to ask
At least not in those words, we got codes for that
Never cheat but we god mode and laugh
And clip through the walls they build to hold us back
.you’re a fighter, I’m a thief
And I’ll always bet against you
So you can take that dive in the fourth round and I’ll collect
That blood money and they’ll never suspect
And then we can go and redistribute this cash
Call it a scholarship for the kids we’ll never have
Let my epitaph read: a bad seed in good earth
Six words what I learned my community’s worth
You tell me not to be so dramatic
And that’s fair, but in my defense
They say everything looks like a nail to a hammer
So what can you do with a wrench? And you tell me:

With a wrench you can build a bridge
With a wrench you can hit a nazi on the bridge of his nose
With a wrench you can wedge it in between two gears
And watch the machine explode

sooner or later is the usual flavor
always been more in tune with the crash than the crest
every extinction level event is what we make of it:
A better world is sleepin’, they’re sedatin’ it
So let’s be the nightmare that awakens it
And the favorite song played to wash away the taste of it
We can be both, we must be both
The flood and the fire ants holding each other to float
Hardcore mode, there’s only one heart I carry
through a country addicted to binaries: but we can both
The wrecking ball and the reclamation
The genesis and the revelation
Hellfire and oasis, and when they tell you to choose
Between the movement and whatever moves you, that’s proof
they don’t understand what movement means
They’re miles wide, and inches deep, but you and me?
Just the opposite, more like archaeologists
Tryin’ to excavate the better ways that we’ve forgotten
And even if it’s hidden deadly deep in the code
And all the powers that be tell us to leave it alone
We don’t respect their power, we got our own
We don’t respect their power, we got our own
And it’s built from something real, something we can hold
Whether that’s a wrench or your hand, I won’t let go, because

With a wrench you can build a bridge
With a wrench you can hit a nazi on the bridge of his nose
With a wrench you can wedge it in between two gears
And watch the machine explode
Track Name: Fortunate Sun featuring Tony the Scribe
Every spirit I’ve ever met, inhabited flesh
Blood and bone because magic alone can’t pay the rent
Or make amends with history simple to ask for sympathy
But I’m not tryin’ to settle got empathy for my devils
There are days when I just wanna say: leave me alone
When my twitter feed’s lookin’ like a scene from the road
And despair is just so easy to hold, so sometimes you gotta hold it
Sit with it, have a conversation
I’ve learned a lot from that particular spirit
I learned that I don’t have to sing that song just because I hear it
Even if it’s my inheritance
I learned that there’s a link in between my cynicism and my arrogance
Like: just because I don’t have the power
To run out the front door and magically fix everything
That doesn’t mean that I don’t have power
It’s just that it’s less mine, and more ours
So shout to those who fight on regardless
Who don’t wait for the sun but light fires in the darkness
Who will resist because they have to
Who know: you don’t dance when they point the cannons at you
Who know: that hope doesn’t float in the air
Like a politician’s thoughts and prayers
Nah it’s something we cultivate, every day on our hands and knees
we’re not here to harvest, we’re here to plant these seeds

I bring my ancestors with me
whether ancestor by blood or bibliography
I ain’t no senator’s son
More like the sun setting on the old world we gotta leave
I bring my grandchildren with me
whether grandchildren by blood or water rippling
I ain’t no millionaire’s son
I just see a million paths to victory, choose one

TONY THE SCRIBE:
I’ve done a lot of violence to people in my space
Been a solipsist, been misogynist, been a fake
Been an insecure asshole and immature blank
Been broke, broke boundaries, and been a thin mate
Been a rich kid talking over people who ain’t
I been a simp, played the fool to a king of the snakes
I been a goddamn tool of the systems in place
But I’m not gonna give up and break
Listen - I’m not a good person cause I’ve never caused a hurt
And I’ve never had to force myself to change
I’m a good person cause I work and I work and I work
Just to find a better way
So I will die trying to make this dark world a little brighter
I will build, I will fight, I will pray
I will walk, I will knock, I will cope, I will love, I will hate, I will hope
If that’s what it’s gon' take
I am what happens when a German girl resisting the Nazis
Comes together with the blood of a slave
I got a thousand generations of spirits inside me
That say there ain’t no such thing as fate

I bring my ancestors with me
whether ancestor by blood or bibliography
I ain’t no senator’s son
More like the sun setting on the old world we gotta leave
I bring my grandchildren with me
whether grandchildren by blood or water rippling
I ain’t no millionaire’s son
I just see a million paths to victory, choose one
Track Name: You Say 'Millionaire' Like It's a Good Thing (REMIX)
this place is a prison and these people aren’t your friends
ain’t no postal service when it’s always sunday in your head
letters unsent, burnin’ that candle at both ends
in the breakroom ready to break...
halfway to broke halfway to broken down
this job makes you nauseous, you try to hold it down
and they will take every opportunity to comment on your luck
because in this economy you gotta be like bottom’s up
even when you know it’s poison, yo: you feelin’ well?
like a body that’s so hungry it begins to eat itself?
bootstraps so tight you can’t admit to needin’ help
on the real feel like hell and you want it to all stop:
jackass manager makin’ smalltalk
try to stay focused, you casually glance at your watch
and see that you are halfway, to being halfway
to being halfway done with half of half of your day

punch that clock ‘til it bleeds
it feels like they’re tryin’ to break us
they tell you to follow your dreams
but your alarm is going off, wake up

all of my life i been lied to
just found out my boss makes 500 times what I do
and still wants to cut my hours back
to 39 and three quarters ‘cause 40 gets you a health plan
and I got a feelin’ I’m a need it
losin’ feelin’ in my knees and my lower back
and I’m going back trapped like a lower class clown
hold a rat down, so we kill each other over cheddar
keep us hungry so we never organize for nothing better
just make it through the day, make it through the week
make it through the month, make a millionaire another couple bucks
what, and like that the coffee buzz is gone
it’s only 9:30 step by step with the other pawns
...one square at a time
somewhere between the walking dead and the buried alive
you can’t steal what’s already been stolen
you can’t kill what is already dead
so if we gotta be zombies, let’s snatch the CEO
and see if there is a brain in his head, until then,

punch that clock ‘til it bleeds
it feels like they’re tryin’ to break us
they tell you to follow your dreams
but your alarm is going off, wake up

so if you got a dollar in your pocket put your hands in the air
ten dollars in your pocket put your hands in the air
if it’s a hundred or a thousand that’s fair
but there’s no such thing as an innocent millionaire

if you got a dollar in your pocket eat a taco
ten dollars: buy some peanut butter and some bread
if you got a hundred or a thousand you can stock up
but a million may as well be human flesh

if you got a dollar in your pocket drink some water
if you got ten have a beer with your lunch
if you got a hundred or a thousand you can dig your own well
and for a million you can drink all the blood you can suck

that dollar in your pocket is an insult
ten dollars in your pocket ain’t enough
the reason that so many of us are have nots
is that the haves have way too much, let’s get ‘em
Track Name: Riverbed (REMIX)
It’s hard to be the cool kid at a funeral
skinny black tie black shoes it’s a beautiful October afternoon
I watch a plane overhead
full of human beings who have no idea that you’re...
I guess life goes on, right? no offense
and now i’m tryin’ not to laugh, which makes me wanna laugh
and I don’t mean no disrespect as I step into this funeral home
like light through stained glass
like light through black holes, like light that faded ages ago
like my phone on airplane mode
like i don’t believe in ghosts but I swear I feel it buzz
a voicemail from the nothing where something was
I’m still laughin’, I can’t pretend like I’m not sad
it’s just that lack of touch is not the same as lack of contact
and that grim reaper isn’t that powerful
he can’t change the past and your impact is unstoppable
I don’t think you die when you die
I don’t think we really understand what it means to be alive
much less existence and much less time
we think that there’s no time, but maybe there’s no time
and maybe memory and prophecy are intertwined
maybe the present is a pixel in a much larger design
Like if the picture’s resolution is a trillion by a trillion
but the CPU display is only one by one
well then it’s easy to assume that there’s nothing but this room
in which we hide and not a whole universe outside
I don’t know if any of this makes sense
I don’t know if I should end it with an amen
I just know there’s a river in every raindrop
and a lot of raindrops in that riverbed
I said: I just know there’s a river in every raindrop
and a lot of raindrops in that riverbed

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