CD Review: Straylight Run take aim at war in Iraq, cover Bob Dylan on EP

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There are many reasons bands release EPs. Many times, younger bands release them with hopes of signing to a label. More established bands release them as a way to stay part of musical conversations around the water cooler. Straylight Run released Prepare to Be Wrong as a not-so-subtle statement against a continuing war.

Beginning with the remarkably simplistic “I Don’t Want this Anymore,” back-up vocalist Michelle Nolan takes the lead and sets the tone for an opinionated and reflective series of songs, with her haunting, echoed tones.

John Nolan (Michelle’s brother and former Taking Back Sunday member) takes over the primary singing duties from there. On “Later That Year,” he provides a poignant visual, using the song’s opening lines to tell of bodies coming home “wrapped up in flags and lined up in rows.” Another simply-written, easy-paced track, it concludes with the striking lines: “We did the math and it wasn’t worth it after all/and we know who’s to blame.”

What makes this EP powerful is its tone. Read out loud, the lyrics are angry and cynical—but put to music, they reveal emotions that are not only filled with bitterness and resentment, but equally so with sadness and regret.

This is brought to a brilliant apex with the record’s last track, a cover of Bob Dylan’s “With God On Our Side.” There are few more difficult tasks than covering a legend like Dylan, but Straylight Run accomplished it masterfully, filling an old song with rejuvenated meaning.

War supporters may disagree with Prepare to Be Wrong’s messages, but perhaps the most powerful one is in the EP’s liner notes; it is a message written for the men and women of the armed forces: “We want nothing more than to see them returned home quickly and safely.”

I think that’s something we all can agree on.

From the Jan. 18-24, 2006, issue

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