Monday, July 14, 2008


Even their most ardent fans agree that the Men of War are nothing if not a predictable band. With vocalist Ehud Olmert, lead guitar Ehud Barak, Avi Dichter on bass and Yuval Diskin on drums, what you’ve already heard is what you get. So it wasn’t surprising that the Men dedicated their performance to Hamas. But when they began the sultry evening in Hayarkon Park with their recent release, the critically panned “Gaza Ceasefire,” it’s doubtful anybody expected a rendition as lifeless as this. Olmert seemed to be going through the motions, Barak kept re-tuning his axe and Diskin abandoned his skins to make a furtive phone call in the wings. When Olmert tore off his shirt and mock-humped Barak, he seemed more desperate than raunchy. The crowd looked resigned to a night of pure buzz-kill.

Fortunately, the band knew it had a problem. After a knowing glance from Olmert, Avi Dichter began laying down the familiar opening bass line of “Searing the Consciousness,” and a grateful audience flung away its boredom like an Arab ID card and sprang to its feet. Olmert preened, Diskin returned to attack his skins with a guttural snarl and the sheer power of this savvy band began to re-emerge. The Men raged through a scorching medley of “West Bank Redeemer,” “Resistance is Terror,” “Mohammed Stole My Car” and “Statehood Never!,” erecting their signature Wall of Noise like a territorial imperative. Olmert and Barak seemed bent on besting each other with every relentless lick.

During “Statehood,” excitement boiled to a frenzy when Olmert began the customary call-and-response with “No mosques!,” and the throaty crowd replied “Throw ‘em Out!.” Olmert skillfully piloted the throng through the standard litany – no schools, no clinics, no trade unions, no sports clubs, no soup kitchens, etc. – reaching orgasmic intensity on “No you!” Such is the power of the band’s Hamas obsession.

Momentum flagged however when Olmert warned some cops on the periphery of the crowd to “leave me the fuck alone,” then began rambling on about one big plan or another. Barak broke in frequently to remind the other Ehud to “quit writin’ checks you can’t cash,” but Olmert lurched on until Diskin spat Jack Daniels on his red Chuck Taylors. After a brief shoving match, the band warmed up “Demolition Derby,” and Olmert foolishly took the crowd’s enthusiasm personally. When he leaped off the stage, nobody bothered to catch him.

The other Ehud re-lit the flame, though, with a bluesy exploration of “Sweet Home Jerusalem.” He’d probably disagree, but Barak seems more at ease in the role of side man than he did as leader of his own ill-fated group, Camp David. Dismissed as a poseur and a flop, he took refuge in a solo tour of the States before returning to the Men of War. Free of the burdens of leadership, his almost maniacal attention to irrelevant detail now adds immeasurably to the band’s capacity to repeat itself. True, he still resorts to stale onstage pyrotechnics – the windmill strum, the chords behind the neck, the guitar as phallus – but when he’s in his groove, few can amp a crowd better, yet deliver less, than E-Bar.

Tempers flared when a group of young women began chanting “Tzipi Livni” during Dichter’s patented 34-minute bass solo on “Arab Graveyard.” Although A-Dic customarily responds to feminine voices with tantalizing flicks of his serpentine tongue, this time he snapped “Shut up, you fucking cunts.” The hecklers replied by increasing their volume and flashing their breasts. Moments later, Olmert had seen and heard enough. “Rock is cock!” he growled. “And, ladies, you ain’t got the goods.”

After a brief break - while the band rang up George Bush on their mobile phones, evidently just to show they could – the Men unveiled “Iran Hamastan,” a work in progress they hope to release this year. The group displayed some vigor, and Yuval Diskin slapped a suspect’s face to interesting percussive effect, but the overall endeavor was hardly ready for prime time. The backbeat was undercooked, and the lyrics sounded like something Golda Meir might’ve said if Ariel Sharon had interrupted her shower.

A transcendent experience did seem possible moments later, when the Men of War invited former band members Bogie Ayalon and Dan Halutz to sit in. Alas, they added nothing new. Halutz wobbled unsteadily, as if he’d waterboarded himself in Goldstar, and Bogie apparently just wanted a few expensive cigars from Olmert’s Talansky stash. The mood only deteriorated when Dan the Man beckoned Dichter’s girl hecklers to enjoy the “dunams of free parking on my face.” Not to be outdone, Avi tried welcoming the ladies onstage for a “scavenger hunt in my pants.” Bogie then dropped his own pants and mooned anyone interested in looking.

When the clowning finally ended, the Men and their erstwhile band mates did passable work on “Hamas Harvest” and “Smashin’ the Calm.” There was enough Ecstasy in the crowd to make it sound better than it was. By the time the band repeated “Statehood Never!” as an encore, it truly seemed that the Men of War had run out of fresh ideas.

The Men were preceded onstage by the erratic all-rabbi hair band, Iron Halakah. It’s old news that Rabbis Yona Metzger (lead vocals & shofar), Yisrael Lau (lead guitar) and Chaim Kanievsky (bass), along with brothers Yaakov (keyboards) and Yisrael (percussion) Ariel, struggle to play the same sheet of music. Despite their prodigious individual talents, Iron Halakah can make the easy seem very difficult. With their seemingly endless monologues to the crowd and each other, momentum can feel like a distant dream. But when they come together – as they did on their all-time best-seller “No Compromise” – their fans are amply rewarded for their patience. Maybe it was the weed and malt liquor, both on the bandstand and off, but the group’s hard-driving Daven Rock concocted a frothy and paranoid vibe that their secular headliners, the famed Men of War, almost wasted.

Monday, July 7, 2008


Caterpillar, Inc., the world’s largest manufacturer of construction machinery, regrets the intentional misuse of its equipment in Jerusalem by a (YOUR PICK) (terrorist) (emotionally overwhelmed individual). As we emphasized when Palestinians were buried alive during home demolitions and Rachel Corrie was crushed in a stand-off - it is people, not bulldozers, that kill people. When employed properly by a qualified operator, Caterpillar equipment changes our shared world in positive ways. We expect, for example, that a Caterpillar bulldozer will destroy the homes of Mr. Duwiyat’s relatives, temporarily quenching the thirst of righteous Israelis (especially rabies victim Baruch Marzel) for revenge. Caterpillar continues to urge responsible use of heavy equipment.

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