Outernational At Harvelle’s, Thursday December 14th 2017
The first time I saw Outernational in 2011, I remember being blown away by the chairman and stage presence of their frontman (although the record store where they played had no stage), and I described Miles Solay, as a young man with the look of a young Bruce Springsteen and the passionate delivery of Joe Strummer,… and after seeing them once again yesterday night at Harvelle’s in Santa Monica, I have to stay with the description.
After a long absence from Los Angeles – I think I last saw the Brooklyn band in 2012, when they played 2 shows at the Echo and the Satellite – I was happy to see them again for another very intense set inside the nightclub.
An Outernational show is a sweaty high-energy one, but this energy is released inside an empty vacuum, the band has been very clear about its political and humanist views since its first shows, and under a Trump-Pence regime, we are in great need of Outernational’s music and outspoken message. I first noticed their music when they released their 2012 album ‘Todos Somos Ilegales’ (We Are All Illegals) and their political tone and take on border issues has certainly not changed since that time, it has probably even increased in determination, passion and fire in the belly. Tom Morello, who has produced songs of the album like a lot of their music, was there, discretely hanging out on the side of the stage and giving signs of approval to the band, or even dancing and head banging along. He is even quoted to have said: ‘Outernational uncompromisingly tells the truth, and they paint a picture of the world the way they see it and a way that we don’t hear on the radio and television as much as people need to.’
No doubt about it, Outernational delivers the message, it’s a strong and bold one, and if they have never been tender to America, it’s naturally getting worst these days: ‘America was never great/Eat you apple pie and genocide’ sings Solay in ‘Decision’, a song released last January a few months after the elections.
Last night, they did a few songs I had never heard before, like the hard hitting ‘Where Art Goes to Die’ with Miles Solay’s ferocious and fearless delivery, an explosive mix of guitar solos and pounding drums, building an furor of sounds to welcome us to the rock revolution. It is as if Miles Solay and his band had been to the Clash university and have graduated with honors, as they are carrying the torch of revolution rocks with pride and great respect.
‘We want to have fun, we want to dream, we want to dance, we want to love, we want to fight!!’ screamed at us Miles with his rap-style convincing tone welcoming us to his revolution through music, just before ‘Where Will You Go? a new song with a new video apparently filmed on Venice Beach boardwalk, keeping Strummer’s spirit alive. But there’s not a second to breathe, soon they jumped into the all fired-up ‘Live Like This’, then the multi-influenced ‘El Temblor En Mi Sangre’, a sort of Gogol Bordello Latin rock uproar with wah-guitar effects and a few rap verses.
The current debate about illegals and immigration is at the core of Outernational’s songs, and the theme of ‘Que Queremos’, a Latin rhythm catchy song but also the very first one that they ever wrote. ‘Que tenemos nada,… what we have, nothing,… que queremos todo, el mundo,… what we want, the whole world!’ screamed again Miles Solay, ‘We dedicate this song to the obscene, absurd, obsolete idea that any human being would be illegal and would be treated anything else than human!’ The message is shouted at the top of his lungs, and it becomes clear that this is a man on a mission, constantly haranguing the crowd about his revolution through art, fiercely squinting his eyes and raising his fist in the air, injecting all his soul and heart into the delivery.
Their ‘Fighting Song’, a drunk tune between the Pogues and Gogol Bordello, was all about that fight, while the reggae-meets-rock-guitars ‘Pick Me Up’ was dedicated to all the women, ‘the uprising and strong sisters’, who have recently taught everyone about social revolution, but it’s also ‘a love song’, because ‘God dammit we need some love in this fucking world’ preached Solay, ending their too-short set with ‘Further In’, and music fired up till the end, channeling revolt, love and hope in the same package.
There are not too many bands which deliver a meaningful message these days, and Outernational do it in a fun way, they want you to dance to their revolution while mixing hard rock, world music and hip hop, it’s politics you can dance to, it’s social revolution you can bounce to. The question is, are we still receptive to this aggressive message of indignation, to this revolution-through music as the Clash did it decades ago? Aren’t we all ‘The Walking Dead?’ (which is also the title of one of their songs). Outernational truly believe they can wake up everyone and with an insane energy they are addressing their message to the new generation of fighters, while restoring anger in rock’ n’ roll in a very fun way.
Where Art Goes to Die
Where Will You Go?
Live Like This
El Temblor En Mi Sangre
Pick Me Up