War Balloons

by Guante and Big Cats

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1.
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
2.
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
3.
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
4.
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.
5.
Wrenches 03:12
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
6.
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
7.
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
8.
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

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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