Protest songs can document a moment as it happens, inspiring awareness and action, but they can also reach across time, telling stories as relevant now as when they were written. Ted Leo's written a few of these songs ("Mourning in America," "Bleeding Powers" among them), his fervor fiery and sensitivity keen.
With a ragged rock and roll stomp like a self-contained Crazy Horse (Leo plays all the instruments here), "The Clearing of the Land" shows how the police state, purposefully skewed language, and state-sanctioned media gives oppressors systemic reason "to kill us all or drive us all, year by year, off the land." Oppression is a meticulous process, gradually building harm to communities until brought to crisis. Violence is never the first strike, but the evidence that demands reaction, often way too late. Layers of fuzz-fried guitar solos whip and wind through the last minute, but not before Leo asks us to wake the hell up: "In the end, friend, really what were you expecting? And who is it you want to be protecting?"
The song was written for Band Together: A Benefit for Ukraine, a compilation featuring The World/Inferno Friendship Society, Unsane, Pušča, Кат and others — a mix of punk, metal and folk artists from Ukraine and the United States, including a few tracks recorded post-invasion by artists living in war. All proceeds from the compilation benefit Razom, a New York-based non-profit providing aid across Ukraine.