John McGrail

Songs for Troubled Times (Mind Fry Enterprises)

The Arcade Fire Beachland Ballroom, 15711 Waterloo Road 9 p.m. Tuesday, November 16; $8, 216-383-1124
Of all the anti-Bush records in recent months, John McGrail's Songs for Troubled Times is likely to be the most musically ambitious and lyrically heavy-handed. McGrail pulls no punches and has much to say, but he isn't going to let you get away without doing some thinking of your own; this is protest music that goes beyond sloganeering.

Ostensibly a folk singer, McGrail is all over the place stylistically; folk takes a backseat to hard rock, alternative rock, and country rock. "Earthday," his screed against environmental abuse, is an excellent U2 impersonation, and "Sometimes We Forget" will have listeners over 50 remembering the Byrds' classic 1967 "Notorious Byrd Brothers." Two bouncy tunes, "Genocide Johnny" and "Just Like Tim McVeigh," are McGrail's most obvious, as is the metal-flavored "Almost Funny." This won't appeal to everyone, but it shouldn't be ignored.

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