Above, a U.S. soldier carries an Iraqi girl away from the scene of three explosions in Baghdad, Iraq, in 2004. Photo by Wathiq Khuzaie for Getty Images. I don’t know about you, but for me, nothing beats the month of March. Flowers start blooming, college basketball picks up and students get a much-needed break from school. But
Wathiq Khuzaie for Getty Images.
I don’t know about you, but for me, nothing beats the month of March. Flowers start blooming, college basketball picks up and students get a much-needed break from school. But it is believed that this beautiful month actually got its name from something quite different: Mars, the Roman god of war.
Now I’m not here to give you a history lesson, and I do promise a future playlist with lighthearted songs about springtime. But this week’s playlist kicks off the month with songs all about war.
Read about each song below, or click here for the entire playlist.
People Say, by Portugal. the Man
These Alaskan alt-rockers channel their inner Oasis for this album opener that begins with an uplifting guitar solo, setting the scene for what you might expect to be a lighthearted and liberating tune. But the lyrics take a turn, tackling subjects such as false hope in war and how easily soldiers can be replaced while those in charge sit comfortably on the sidelines.
Charlie Don’t Surf, by The Clash
If you had never seen the movie “Apocalypse Now,” you might imagine this song is about riding waves. Trust me … I know. But “Charlie Don’t Surf” is actually one of the most famous lines from the classic war film. The statement is made by Robert Duvall’s character to justify taking over a beach during the Vietnam War so the soldiers could go surfing. The entire song plays off this single statement, commentating on how soldiers justify their actions.
Out of Time, by Blur
Similar to “Charlie Don’t Surf,” you might need a bit of context to fully understand Damon Albarn’s intentions with this song. The track was released just after the United States invaded Iraq in 2003. The war seems to have complicated Albarn’s life, leading his narrator to question what love really means and to ask for a peaceful love song to ease the world’s tension. But “Out of Time,” which has a music video filled with war imagery, is not a love song at all. In fact, the tune ends with Albarn singing that he has given up and that the world might just be over.
Dress Blues, by Jason Isbell
Jason Isbell wrote this song in 2007 for Matt Conley, a Marine who went to Isbell’s high school and was killed during combat. At the time of his death, Conley was scheduled to come home in a few weeks to see his wife, who was pregnant with their first child. Isbell named the song “Dress Blues” after the official Marine uniforms — a uniform that Isbell says Conley will be “sleeping” in forever.
4 Minute Warning, by Radiohead
This entire bonus track from Radiohead’s “In Rainbows” album is based off a nightmare that Thom Yorke hopes to wake up from. But if the song’s narrative is true, there is no hope. The four-minute warning was an alert system used by the British government during the Cold War. The name came from the amount of time between when a missile attack from the Soviet Union could be confirmed and when it would actually make impact.
The First Vietnamese War, by The Black Angels
I don’t think I have to tell you what war this song is about, but it is interesting that a band formed in 2004 would embody a soldier drafted during the Vietnam War. In fact, the band has such an interest with Vietnam that one of its side projects is called The Viet Minh, named after a national independence coalition formed in the 40s. So why the interest? I’m not sure. But the band seems frustrated with the outcome, referencing the tens of thousands of “kids” that died.
Drone Bomb Me, by ANOHNI
From the beginning of this track, it is obvious that the narrator wants to die. But ANOHNI considers “Drone Bomb Me” a love song. During a radio interview with BBC, ANOHNI said the track was written from the perspective of a 9-year-old girl whose family had been killed during a drone attack in Afghanistan.
“She is kind of looking up at the sky and she’s gotten herself to a place where she just wants to be killed by a drone bomb too,” she said.
But the narrator doesn’t just want to be killed, she begs for it — asking for someone to “blow my head off” and “explode my crystal guts.”
After the Bombs, by The Decemberists
So I could just leave you with the image of exploding guts in your head, but I’m not that cruel. Don’t get me wrong, “After the Bombs” is still a song about war—a sad one, too. But instead of feeling completely hopeless like the narrator in “Drone Bomb Me,” this narrator is just hoping that the bombs will stop so he can meet his lover in the streets and go dancing once again.