Something Else! Sneak Peek: Ry Cooder, "No Banker Left Behind" (2011)


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Tough times call for angry protest records, for political records, for records that produce rueful smiles. Ry Cooder has done that and more with “No Banker Left Behind," a tart treatise on the recent financial meltdown to be included on his forthcoming album Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down.

In a canny twist, Cooder turns a well-known phrase—associated, until now, with the education program meant to raise standards across the nation—on its ear. He begins with this frankly delicious dream about arresting all of the overpaid miscreants who helped shape the economic downturn: “They're all at the station," Cooder howls. “No banker left behind!"

The song plays out, however, in much the same way that the actual recession did: With the rich becoming damnably richer. Instead of getting their long-delayed comeuppance, the bankers end up on a fast-moving train headed away from the smoking rubble. “The conductor is calling all aboard ... with champagne and shrimp cocktails—and that's not all you'll find," Cooder adds. “There's a billion-dollar bonus, and no banker was left behind."

That devastating sense of being marooned amongst problems created by others makes “No Banker Left Behind" something like a modern-day version of John Lennon's “Working Class Hero"—but with a bitterly humorous twist and this country-fried instrumentation that connect it with Depression-era protest songs. Elsewhere on Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down, set for release Aug. 30 on Nonesuch/Perro Verde Records, Cooder also proports to devine how John Lee Hooker would fix the Supreme Court if elected. What outlaw Jesse James has in mind for Goldman Sachs. And why God hates television.

Sometimes, and Cooder seems to sense it with note-perfect acumen, you laugh to keep from crying.

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