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Protest Song Of The Week: ‘We Won’t Go Back’ By Love Always

Benefit compilations are a longstanding medium through which artists support social movements, so it makes sense that in 2017 we have seen a lot of them. One of my favorites has been Battle Hymns, compiled by members of band Quasi, an urgent collection of explicitly political songwriting. Battle Hymns is a fundraising effort, with proceed going to the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and 350.org, but it’s also more than that—a protest project in form, function and content.

The album features new protest songs from the likes of Doug Martsch, Stephen Malkmus, Carrie Brownstein, Mary Timony and Corin Tucker, with Quasi members Sam Coomes and Janet Weiss (who coordinated the comp) playing as the backing band for several of the tracks.

One of the most memorable songs is the album’s scuzzy, punk opener, “We Won’t Go Back” by Love Always, a/k/a the solo project of Kathy Foster of The Thermals, All Girl Summer Fun Band, and Hurry Up.

Foster draws from Hurry Up’s raw, lo-fi production, and The Thermals’ sharp power-pop hooks to make an anti-hate anthem that is equal parts fired-up hooks, mesmerizing psych-punk, and deadpan spoken word.

“They like to tell us what our bodies do / They like to show us how to be used / Then they try to redefine what it means to lose,” the song starts.

The song’s message is most viscerally felt when the verses give way to an explosive chorus: “They try to take our rights / They try to keep us down, but instead we rise,” shouts Foster. “We fight! The hate! The lies! We won’t go back! We stand! With strength! And fight! We won’t go back!”

It’s an apt opener to a compilation, which also includes songs like “Fight the Hate” by Mary Timony (“Hate creates hate creates hate creates hate,” Timony sings) and “Happy New Year (Prince Can’t Die Again)” by Mac McCaughan of Superchunk (“This could be a great year if you’re rich / Or if you’re a racist craving an authoritarian hand / And the sun will shine on you if you hate women,” he sings).

“Battle Hymns is a compilation album created in direct response to the current political situation in the U.S.A – it is a protest record!” the band Quasi writes on their website.

The compilation is only available through direct purchase from quasiband.com, which feels like a meaningful gesture. There is no reliance on corporate distribution platforms.

Download the entire album (no minimum donation required) to hear “We Won’t Go Back” plus 13 more tracks.

Liz Pelly

Liz Pelly