The Dead Satellites: A Hootenanny With Heft

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Wednesday's Pick

  • Song: "Shook Down"
  • Artist: The Dead Satellites
  • CD: MP3 Only
  • Genre: Rock
Matthew Ryan of The Dead Satellites

In "Shook Down," Dead Satellites singer Matthew Ryan strikes a populist nerve. courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Driving guitars, plinking piano and populist discord all gloss up the opening seconds of The Dead Satellites' penetrating protest song, "Shook Down." Fluidly cinematic, but with a grimy edge, "Shook Down" frames corporatism in an unflattering light: "Workers on the news, they take it in the gut / And in the kingdom's view, it doesn't mean that much," singer and bandleader Matthew Ryan grumbles.

In his career spent crafting heartland rock and Springsteen-ian folktronica as a mostly solo act, Ryan has never dispensed his trademark growl with so much vigor. Co-written with his fellow Dead Satellites — on leave from The Wallflowers, Greg Richling and Rami Jaffee — "Shook Down" churns out remarkably convincing quasi-Trotskyist folk. ("The average CEO makes 400 times what the average worker makes," Ryan intones over a snappy vamp.)

And yet there's added heft to the hootenanny body politik. Ryan's grizzled and blue-collar characters drown their troubles in Killian's and cigarettes while speaking in hushed tones about "what comes next." But, like any politically charged songwriter worth his salt, Ryan strikes an everyman nerve: The vague ending leaves breathing room for the listener's own version of the audacity of hope.

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