New Hymns for an Old War covers a wide, historical range of issues; the lyrics for "May 1, 1886" are taken from the testimony of American labor activist August Spies, while the first single "Guns Up" draws inspiration from the Harlan County coal miners strike of 1972. The 80-second vintage punk ruckus "Ramsey County Blues" was penned during Paul's prison stay following the 2008 RNC. And while PFA don't exactly serve up feel-good hits, there is an undeniable undercurrent of hope throughout the LP. "Pray for love!" Paul shouts on "Prayers for Atheists"; on "Keep Left," he delivers a poignant line atop Hague's crackling riffs: "If we bleed without joy then it's not worth the fight." The closing tracks include a moving audio sample from an American soldier, and a sentiment of hope and accountability on "Strength of Doves," a big anthem with Paul leading the chant of "I still believe!" On the local front, look no further than "Hope City Sky" as your official Providence anthem — we can feel the anticipation of Paul returning home from tour and getting his first glimpse of the Provy skyline while shouting out everyone from Dropdead and Six Finger Satellite to Youth in Action and AS220, where PFA will return for their CD release party (followed by yet another nationwide tour).
Shoot the shit with Paul and you'll quickly realize the dude was born to ignite a positive spark under our collective asses, using charisma, charm, and smarts. "People have been bombarded with such a shitstorm of injustice, exploitation, and preventable tragedies that it's almost too much to handle," Paul told me. "It gets to the point where you don't want to know anymore, that the vast web of brutality and greed is so great that it all seems too big to even try to fix.
"Luckily for me, I'm too angry to quit. I take it personally. And if I'm still alive when the grandchildren my foster kids adopt come at me with questions about why we didn't do shit to change the way things were going, or how we figured out how to send cameras to Mars yet cast aside issues like nuclear abolition and universal health care, I'll be able to look them in the eye and say, 'I got arrested at this protest during the republican National Convention, and at that sit-in, I was part of this anti-nuclear campaign, and spoke about all these issues at over 1000 performances, and wrote to this senator, and occupied the State House, etc.'
"I will be able to tell them with a straight face that I gave it an honest try."
PRAYERS FOR ATHEISTS + THE RICE CAKES + THE JESSE MINUTE | Saturday, May 14 @ 8 pm | AS220, 115 Empire Street, Providence | All ages | $8 | 401.831.9327 |prayersforatheists.org