Madison Rising is an indie band unafraid to preach an occasionally controversial pro-American message. Their eponymous debut disc, Madison Rising, is a patriotic (albeit unquestioning) piece in praise of America and the military. According to their management, their “pro-American and pro-military” messages and more recent official endorsement of Mitt Romney has garnered the group some “serious hostility and discrimination” while trying to make their way through “the ultra-liberal entertainment industry”.
While the band has previously slotted into the top 100 selling rock albums on iTunes and Amazon, they still find it difficult to book gigs, buy advertising and some publications even refuse to publish articles about them. Madison Rising’s manager, Richard Mgrdechian says: “People have even gone as far as saying that we’re not music, just right-wing propaganda. Apparently the Left cannot only define what is and is not free speech, but also what is and what is not music.”
Their 10-track CD mixes elements of classic rock and blues with lyrics focused on conservative values to create their own socio-political signature sound. At the time of the disc’s release the band roster included: ex-Navy corpsman Dave Bray (lead vocals), Alex Bodnar (guitar and bass), Sam Fishman (drums) and Chris Schreiner (guitar). (More recently Steve Padeleski has signed on as bass player.)
The album opens on “Right To Bear”. This guitar-heavy cut composed by Bodnar, Schreiner, Bray and Mgrdechian focuses on gun ownership. No surprise this one got them in good with the NRA and a gun publication or two.
The second selection is “Soldier Of America”. This was written by Bray and Bodnar and is bound to be a hit on any military base or in any military home as it gladly glorifies the occupation of soldier in a melodramatic mini-musical that wraps it all up in red, white and blue. The band even cements the song’s success by bringing in kids in the form of the Kinnelon Children’s Chorus of America.
“Rally The Youth”–by Bodnar and Schreider–takes a slightly different approach by bringing in Marie Kim on cello and Ryan Kienle on bass. This at first appears to be a wake-up call to the youth of America and yet one of the verses refers to folks who work full-time so it seems a bit off-focus lyrically. Perhaps the point is to not be a thoughtless drone which in itself is slightly ironic here considering the album is not lacking in terms of singular viewpoint.
The music of Bodnar and Schreider back lyrics by Mgrdechian on “Honk If You Want Peace”. This is a song that manages to make a peace rally look like a bad scene. Here the motives of American college students are questioned in a tuneful tale of a war protest that somehow results in the death of a child.
Oddly, the setting of this song-story is in a particular place where there is only one way to the hospital and the “jeering mobs and tie-dyed slobs” are “lying in the street”. Again, there is irony here in a piece sung by a vet vilifies those who perhaps once vilified those in the military. Perhaps the band sees people in terms of black and white or those who feel they are owed and those who owe.
That’s OK boys, criticizing those who pay our paychecks is something everyone is probably guilty of at one point or another. This song makes an interesting foil to Neil Young’s classic cut “Ohio”. (On the other hand, your ranting writer has always thought that protesters of any sort shouldn’t inconvenience those of us trying to get from Point A to Point B. Some of us have to go to work!)
“Walking Through The Door” follows here. This Bodnar-Schreiner work features lyrics by Andy Waldeck. This is an all too real piece about a soldier who failed to read the fine print on his enlistment papers. After hiring on with the military he returns home to marry and soon discovers his wife is pregnant.
He also learns he is being sent on a second tour of duty. There’d certainly be fewer tears shed if our militia consisted solely of singles or if they all could at least keep the promise the main character makes here: “I’ll fight harder/And I won’t be martyred/And I’ll make it home so all my children know me.”
“Critic’s Choice” goes to “American Dream”. This song was written by the same team as the previous piece, has some good guitar riffs and has no political axe to grind. Nor does its subjectivity open up a lot of debate. If anything it should unify Americans. We all want the American Dream.
The next number is “Hallowed Ground”. This one was the work of the entire band and their manager. It’s a heartfelt tribute to a “selfless” military dad. The reality is they don’t all walk through the door. Sometimes they’re buried all too soon in hallowed ground. Kim’s strings are brought in once more to elicit the desired effect.
Bodnar, Schreiner and Mgrdechian also wrote about media bias in the hard rocking “Where Was The Media Then” and a need for unity in “Before The Hyphens Came”. The latter contains lyrical contributions by Michael Riser and makes a good point about the hyphenating of America. The closing cut is the 1980s flashback “In The Days That Reagan Ruled” which makes comparisons along party lines.
Madison Rising makes no bones about their personal viewpoints and political opinions. Indeed, it’s blatantly apparent that the band writes songs that are sometimes subjective and simplistic. Yet perhaps what is most important here is the end result of praising the home team.
Yes, folks in the military are paid to do the job but nevertheless they are our team, our friends and our family. Perhaps we need the Republican rock of Madison Rising. God, guts and guns . . .as they say. So root for the home team, baby, they’re wearing our flag.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.