Butcher Knives – American Dream

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I’ve never really thought of the phrase “American Dream” as a completely definable saying. It’s always been something that I heard politicians and the like use to describe how great they think things are here (or were at one time). I think of it as being based on perception or as something used to motivate people.  

But, apparently, I’m wrong. A Google search of the expression defines the American Dream as, “the ideal that every U.S. citizen should have an equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative.”

A February 2016 article from usnews.com reports “there isn’t a single country in the world – including the U.S. – where the average worker can afford to finance the American Dream.” Given this fact, it’s surprising that anyone, even Americans, believe in such a thing anymore.  However, proof exists that this ideal is still being sold.

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The proof can be seen in the American Dream video by Butcher Knives.  Butcher Knives are a self-described gypsybilly band. This is a seven-member group with hailing from Israel, Colombia, New York, Morocco, and New Orleans. The debut album Misery offers listeners a commingling of culture and musical styles, as well as an immigrant’s perspective of life in the states with the single for American Dream.

As a whole, the video makes a statement on the reality of life in America for immigrants who come here expecting to prosper only to experience something entirely different. It’s about not only the immigrant’s perception, but also America’s perception and treatment of immigrants. It begins with clips of people explaining when and why they came here and then breaks into footage of the band performing and newscasts from the media.

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At its core, this is a punk song. There’s a variety of instrumentation in the recording including accordion, banjo, keyboard, sampler, guitar, bass, and drums. All these instruments allow the music to stretch into the rockabilly and gypsy genres. This many musicians jamming at one time can be overwhelming on the ears.  There are just so many different sounds competing for space and frequencies. Chanted gang vocals are utilized for much of the tune and a Colombian accent with a hint of broken English comes through clearly.

After listening, I’ve realized that even though the American Dream is definable, it is indeed based on individual perception. What it means is something different for each person and it can change in time with personal experience. Whether you’re born here or you come here, you’re probably going to struggle these days, but struggling here means something different for everyone.

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