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  • Compact Disc (CD) + Digital Album

    Full color CD gatefold package features photographs by Stephen Ferry and drawings and titles by Andrew Levi-Hiller. Comes with 20-page booklet featuring lyric sheets that refer to books and sites where you can learn more about the historical events referenced in the tracks. Import from French label Arbouse Records.

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  • El Pulpo / Cassette from Shrimper Records
    Cassette + Digital Album

    Handmade by Dennis Callaci for Shrimper Records, black and white cover features Andrew Levi-Hiller's drawing as the frontpiece. Limited edition of 150 to start. I only have

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about

All of the songs on this album deal with white collar crime, mostly of the agricultural & American variety. The idea to undertake this project came from a combination of the book Stuffed & Starved: The Hidden Battle For the World Food System by Raj Patel and the album In What Language? by Mike Ladd & Vijay Iyer. Some of the other sources I used to research the history and current events addressed by this album are listed after the lyrics in the booklet you can download on this page, or find inside the CD package.

10% of proceeds will go to benefit Durham For All's 10K strong campaign, which aims to build a cross-class multiracial political movement rooted in working class communities of color that can transform Durham's electoral landscape. Learn more and consider donating at www.durhamforall.org/10kstrong. This album was made in Durham and came to be in a synergistic fashion with work I have been engaged in since moving here in 2013 with Durham Public Schools, the Durham Association of Educators, and the Durham People's Alliance.

A few reviews:

“John Davis stopped playing music in public for a while after quitting Folk Implosion in 2000. He was still writing songs and slowly returned to active performing to support his sporadic solo albums, most notably Spare Parts in 2013. His day job – teaching at a culturally diverse high school – inspired this new project, a political song cycle that uses the food industry as a metaphor for the problems of capitalism, colonialism, and racial inequality that we face on a daily basis.

The songs are lyrically dense, laying bear the shady rationalizations that support the easy life most of us in the U.S. enjoy. Davis has crafted an album full of slow, stirring melodies and tension-filled arrangements that deliver the alarming information he wants to import in a visceral way. After listening to El Pulpo, you’ll never be able to visit a supermarket or add sugar to your coffee with a clear conscience.” — j. poet, Magnet Magazine, December 2017, 9/10 stars.

“On El Pulpo, John Davis & The Cicadas assess the human cost of corporate corruption and greed within the food industry using clattering art-pop. Davis, best known for his work in Folk Implosion with Lou Barlow, was inspired by Raj Patel’s book Stuffed and Starved, about the global cost of corporate food monopolies. As a teacher in Durham, North Carolina public schools, Davis has students in his classes whose parents emigrated from countries impacted by the deleterious practices of resource- and labor-hungry American restaurant chains and food companies. El Pulpo, then, is a work of nonfiction—a really, really catchy work of nonfiction.

“Coca-Cola, you’re at public schools / Talking Congress down from health code rules,” Davis sings on the upbeat, percussive “Coca-Cola.” Throughout El Pulpo, Davis inverts marketing and advertising techniques, using slogans and brand name repetition to subvert their respective corporations. “Who Milks the Cow?” plays like a sound collage recorded in a mechanical zoo, and in this nightmare soundscape Davis recites corporate names like a beat poet reading the signs in a strip mall: Del Monte, Little Caesar’s, Pizza Hut, Papa John’s. “The whistle blows, it’s halftime,” he rhymes in a sort of slacker-rap voice, articulating the knee-jerk effects of nonstop advertising. As the weird little song fades, heavily-treated voices in the background repeat, “Call for pizza. Call for pizza.”

In a lesser songwriter’s hands, this could come across as preachy. Yet Davis isn’t merely yelling, “Wake up, sheeple!” He’s putting forward the facts as he sees them. In “Stock Up All the Prisons,” which bears all the rhythmic pulse and infectious melody of an orchestrated Liars tune, Davis goes step-by-step into the way the American prison-industrial complex functions. “It’s good to be in an office / Let’s take a look and see / How me and my friends / Can loot the treasury,” he sings, then connects America’s for-profit health care with its for-profit prison industry. “Stock up all the prisons / Lock hospital doors.”

– Corbie Hill, Editorial: Album of The Day, Bandcamp, 11/27/17

credits

released October 20, 2017

Produced by Scott Solter and John Davis
All songs by John Davis (c) Endless Soft Hits (BMI)
Photographs by Stephen Ferry
On all tracks:
John Davis: lead vocals
Scott Solter: Distorbience and tinted vapors
See individual tracks and/or download pdf booklet for full credits to the bakers dozen of Cicadas who buzzed on this album.

Our sincere thanks to the following Kickstarter supporters who helped to make this album possible: Wim Lecluyse, Michael Hession, Eric Davis, Grace Harriman, Michael Sacks, Anthony Star, Lou Barlow, Leslie Gaffney, Peter Roundy, Tom Fisher, Penny Lewis, Joe Blubaugh, Ceridwen Morris, Vina Rust, Adam Zucker, Walter Crump and Imani Perry.

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about

John Davis & The Cicadas Durham, North Carolina

John Davis is a musician, educator, & activist. He was half of Folk Implosion in the '90's. F.I. hit the Top 40 with "Natural One" off the Kids soundtrack, but remained focused on sonic chameleon maneuvers in both home and hi-to-mid-fi studios. John's '90's solo work mined a more skeletal, spooky and poetic vein for the Shrimper Label. Absent in the aughts, he returned in 2013 with Spare Parts. ... more

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Track Name: Sugar Daddy Candy Corn
In Mexico it used to be
All the fields were full of me
But then came 1994
I heard someone knock down the door
Now corn from the USA
Undersells me every day
Iowa sells three times more than me
Thanks to those big fat subsidies

Sugar daddy candy corn
You treated me with so much scorn
Sugar daddy candy corn
It must feel good to be well born

Tortillas cost a lot more cash
Soon the peso began to crash
Mission Foods got such a big boost
While poverty went right through the roof
More than a million lost their land
Circumstances forced their hand
Driven to the north by free trade
It’s so cold where the money’s made

Sugar daddy candy corn
Made them leave their own newborns
Sugar daddy candy corn
Sure is good to be well born

Nobody comes from thin air
Who really emigrated where?
Said NAFTA, “I have ta come to the south
To smack small farmers in the mouth.”
Then the border will be a maze
Of drugs and guns, smoking, ablaze

Then Clinton did it twice
Pushing Haiti, pushing rice
They called it aid, said “Heaven sent!”
But look where all the money went

Sugar daddy candy rice
Look out for that lower price
Sugar daddy candy rice
Look out for that bad advice
Sugar daddy candy corn
You treated me with so much scorn
Sugar daddy candy corn
It must feel good to be well born
Track Name: We'll Teach Them How to Privatize
It’s time to sail out on the sea
Across the waves on ships
That we sail for many thousand miles
The oceans are our shopping aisles

We’ve got satellites and drones
We’re far away, but not alone
We’ve got decks of F-18s
They only fire in their dreams

On the Indian Ocean across the Red Sea
In the Gulfs of Aden, and Guinea

The mother company back home
Gave us a map of where to roam
They want the oil underground
That makes the world go round and round

On the Indian Ocean across the Red Sea
In the Gulfs of Aden, and Guinea

They want the labor really cheap
That stitches clothes while we all sleep
They want the labor, that’s the prize
That has no right to organize

On the Indian Ocean across the Red Sea
In the Gulfs of Aden, and Guinea

Welcome to the resource wars
In deltas, jungles, deserts, ocean floors
I hear they see us as a threat
They don’t know half of it yet
Track Name: HFCS
I’m on the prowl and on the rise
I’m on the prowl and on the rise
In colorful shrink wrap disguise
Colorful shrink wrap disguise
On the prowl & on the rise

Oh, HFCS
You look so good, I never guessed
Still I say yes
You stimulate and then you depress

Look in the glass before your eyes
Someone is there to your surprise
Someone you thought was safe
Who can lay a body to waste
On the prowl and on the rise

Oh, HFCS
You taste so good, I never guessed
Still I say yes
You stimulate, then we obsess

The bitter truth tastes sweet
It’s stuck between your teeth…
I’m cheap because I’m subsidized
Earl Rusty Butz said I’m authorized
To be on the prowl and on the rise

Oh, HFCS
You look so good, well I never guessed
Still I say yes
You stimulate and then you depress

I’m on the prowl
I’m on the rise
Track Name: King Piggly Wiggly
It started off with A&P
Capitalized in Tennessee
A Memphis chain that beats the band
Bigger than Elvis, and Graceland
The King of Rock & Roll could sing, yeah
But here real cash registers ring
At King Piggly Wiggly
King Piggly Wiggly, spit roasting rotisserie

You know the music never stops
Deep inside the Stop & Shop
Another link, another chain
Another hit song in your brain

The slower music makes you browse
The atmosphere feels like a cloud
Sometimes it feels like you can’t leave
An impulse purchase pulls your sleeve
No one knows what we sell
We cover up the real smell
Strolling for another mile
Back & forth, another aisle
We map a racetrack
Of you shopping, forth and back

Where the music never ends
Safeway speeding round the bend
Another link, another chain
Another hit stuck in your brain

Now these chains are heading south
To kick street markets in the mouth
Carrefour, and yes, Whole Foods
Redline the poor & black, it’s true

Like Elvis did back in Graceland
We stimulate the wide demand
Like a pusher selling rocks
We sweeten Pandora’s box
Like a pusher, but with stocks
What we sell, it’s junk, around the clock
Cuz it started off with A&P
Capitalized in Tennessee

King Piggly Wiggly
First self service grocery
King Piggly Wiggly
Spit roasting rotisserie
Track Name: Vanilla Shake
I skim the cream off of the top
You sew the seams inside my shop
A stitch in time in Vietnam
The minerals for atom bombs

It’s my vanilla shake
My sweet tooth, your backache

Migrant workers picking crops
Gettin’ chased by border cops
A private prison raking cash
Helping congress grow their stash

It’s my Vanilla Shake
My sweet tooth, your backache
It’s our Vanilla Shake
USA on the take

I’m from the north I eat the south
Pineapples stuffed inside my mouth
I skim the cream right off the top
A patriot who loves to shop
Track Name: Coca-Cola
Coca-Cola you came just in time
Pemberton recalled his Coca Wine
Coca-Cola you still contained
Just a bit of cocaine
Coca-Cola you changed DNA
7X is pure or so you say
Tome Coca-Cola
Teme Coca-Cola
Tome Coca-Cola
La Chispa de la Muerte

Atlanta never learned to organize
You hit every strike between the eyes
Mao’s Little Red Book slandered you
You bought Inka Cola of Peru
Coca-Cola you’re a germicide
Sanitizing bugs way down inside

Tome Coca-Cola
Teme Coca-Cola
Tome Coca-Cola
La Chispa de la Muerte

Coca-Cola you turn our heads
The Depth Boys made Santa white and red
The bottle named for Mae West
Coca-Colonized every address
Woodruff had the cash to spread your fame
Thanks to Slavery by Another Name

I’d like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony
I’d like to buy the world a coke
And keep ’em company
Perfect harmony in every dream
Here comes a jersey off the back of Mean
Joe Greene

Coca-Cola you bribed public schools
Talking Congress down from health code
rules
Coca-Cola Colonels World War 2
Dictators never really bothered you

Tome Coca-Cola
Teme Coca-Cola
Tome Coca-Cola
La Crispa de la Muerte
Track Name: Stock Up All the Prisons
It’s good to be in office
Let’s take a look and see
How me and my friends
Can loot the treasury
It’s written on a golf course
Or in a private jet
The authorship is hidden
But you know you can bet
That laws about insurance
Laws about guns and drugs
Were written by Wall Street
As white collar thugs

Stock up all the prisons.
lock hospital doors
Stock up lots of guns,
so we’ll need them more
Stock up all the prisons,
close a public school
We who have the gold,
get to break the rules

We made friends with drug kingpins
They helped us score a Cold War win
So up and up went the supply
Down came the price to get high
Are politics in poor folks heads?
Tell cops let ’em have drugs instead
Then we’ll really have ’em seeing red
They’ll be sleeping in a prison bed
Does all this make you sad?
Are you rich & white & scared?
Take all the drugs you like
You’ll be too high to care

Stock up all the prisons,
lock hospital doors
Stock up lots of guns,
so we’ll need them more
Stock up all the prisons,
fuck with public schools
We who have the gold,
get to make the fools

Are you sick and poor?
We’ve got emergency rooms
But a new disaster
Will be in your mailbox soon
If you can’t seem to pay the bill
Hey, that’s really just too bad
Cuz HMOs have bottom lines
That we just need to pad
They wouldn’t be too thrilled
No not too overjoyed
If Medicare for all made sure
That they were all destroyed,
That they were all destroyed…

Stock up all the prisons,
lock hospital doors
Stock up lots of guns,
so we’ll need them more
Stock up all the prisons,
close a public school
We who have the gold,
get to take the jewels

So now you’ve toured the office
You had a chance to see
How me and my friends
Oh, how we loot the treasury!
Here out on the golf course
Up in our private jet
All up and down the lobbies
We take what we can get
We take what we can get...that’s right
Track Name: Who Milks the Cow?
Heinz, Unilever, Del Monte, Little Caesar’s
Megafarms and high tech yields
Pizza Hut controls the fields
From Ghana to upstate Catskills
Insider trading slowly kills
Kills small tomato and dairy farms
Papa John’s should raise alarms
Who Milks the Cow?
Who Milks the Cow?
Leprino has a price to squeeze
As they turn milk to massive cheese
While somewhere dismal near Detroit
The stock of Domino’s gains points
The whistle blows, it’s halftime
You call for pizza every time
Track Name: Contamination In the Grass
Some say you’re just dirt, they wash you away
They never know the role you play
You pull nitrogen from thin air
You feed the plants, I’m glad you’re there

Your beautiful diversity
Damaged once by DDT
Monsanto owns your ass
Contamination in the grass

Elements from water who
The soil turns into plant food
The veggies shining on our plate
You’re the womb where they gestate
Some treat you like dirt, they wash you away
They’d starve without your savvy ways

Your beautiful diversity
Lost to the spread of BHC
Syngenta owns your ass
Contamination in the grass

Aldrin, Benzene Hexachloride
Arsenic, Heptachlor, but why?
Orchards and cranberry bogs
Sterile damaged lonesome frogs
Carrots soak up the most of all
Bugs Bunny don’t like that at all

Insects, microscopic mites
Break down falling leaves with bites
Earthworms let the soil breathe
Help water come on in and leave
Some say you’re just dirt, but still I say
Soil me and make my day

Abundance and diversity
Yes, some did ban DDT
Dow Chemical still owns your ass
Contamination in the beautiful diversity
Lost to the spread of BHC
Monsanto owns your ass
Contamination in the Grass

Aldrin, Benzene Hexachloride
Aresnic, Heptachlor, but why?
Track Name: El Pulpo
Can you feel my tentacles?
Can you feel my tentacles?
My suction cups say they know you well
My three hearts should ring a bell
You know me I used to be
You know me I used to be
The United Fruit Company
Minor Keith first made me tick
I’m the real Banana Republic

El Pulpo…

Can you feel my testicles?
Can you feel my testicles?
The State Department made them swell
John Foster Dulles made them well
Guatemala loved Arbenz Guzman
Thanks to John and Ike, soon he was gone
Honduras was also my home
No man should have to fight alone

El pulpo…

My suction cups can also taste
I can lay a shark to waste
Forty years of endless war
200 thousand dead, or more
No one connects all that with me
Since I changed my name, you see
United Fruit? Non, Senorita!
Call me by my name, Chiquita!

El pulpo…

My neurons live inside my arms
I bear them and I do mean harm
I used to own the railroad tracks
I broke all the strikers’ backs
I fought back by spraying ink
Who owned the papers? Who you think?
The radio, the telegraph,
The postal service, paid with cash

El pulpo…

Back in 1928
Santa Marta met its fate
Our best defense was just to hide
In camouflage beneath the tides
We change colors with our skin
We shoot ink filled with melanin
You understand my sex appeal
A woman loves a man who steals

El pulpo…
Track Name: Soja é o Rei
You think of me, you think of sauce
But I give chocolate its gloss
Can’t you see the state I’m in?
Turned into soy lecithin
Three of four things that you scan
At check out time betray my hand

Soja é o rei, Soja é o rei

You think of me as just tofu
Well I’m so much more, oh yes it’s true
So even when you dine on meat
I’m the one you really eat
The cows, the chickens and the steer
All raised on me, from toe to ear
I used to come from the US
But now Brazil is my address

Soja é o rei, Soja é o rei

They followed me down to Brazil
Bunge, ADM, Cargill
And once they had control of me
They wrote Brasilia policy
Now aquifers better look out
Cuz I’m on a rainforest rout
“O Rei da Soja” é aqui
É o Senhor Blairo Maggi

Soja é o rei, Soja é o rei

In Matto Grosso Indians
Are losing land to me again
The Landless Rural Workers say
I’m made by work that doesn’t pay
My ports are full of sex working
Paranagua trafficking

Soja é o rei, Soja é o rei
Track Name: Bubbles
You’re such a soapsud - I watch you float
You’re such a soapsud - Don’t try and gloat
You could be housing or S and L
Or maybe dot com, it’s hard to tell -
I know you well
Public pensions: gambling chips
Played as the market soars and dips
On rumors and tips

I watch your pretty bubbles
turning into grime
A bailout on the double
and in the nick of time
I watch your pretty bubbles
right before they burst
They’re shiny, full of trouble;
to taste them causes thirst

First it was Paul and Alan,
then Janet after Ben
They all bend over and back again,
over and back again
For astronomic rates of return
I find it comic: they say they’re earned
Take a look, who gets burned
Noise trading swaptions,
delayed write downs
Backdating options, decayed downtowns
Smashing and grabbing, buy out with debt
The Drexel Gang has come to collect
Look out you could be next

I watch your pretty bubbles
turning into grime
You sit on top of rubble,
you’re the king of crime
We taste your pretty bubbles
stuck inside our throats
The parties working for you
bring us your ransom note
I watch your pretty bubbles
turning into grime
A bailout on the double
and in the nick of time
I watch your pretty bubbles
right before they burst
They’re shiny, full of trouble,
to taste them causes thirst

The campaign trail ends at your door
They want the cash inside your drawer
They straighten ties and check their watch
They’re wearing cufflinks, drinking scotch
Track Name: White Explosions
You start with white explosions
On volcanic shattered rock
You sailed off to Hoboken
You landed on the docks

Sinatra sang about you
And the people sang along
The nation had to have you
And have you for a song
Sinatra sang about you
And the people sang along
The nation had to have you for a song

King Kullen the Price Wrecker
Sold you like a snake
Where you grow revolution
Follows in your wake
Since a Frenchman crossed the ocean
With your ancestor on a stake

Sinatra sang about you
And the people sang along
The nation had to have you
And have you for a song
Sinatra sang about you
And the people sang along
The nation had to have you, for a song

Guatemala, Nicaragua
Chiapas, Salvador
Rwanda, Indonesia
Brazil, Angola, more

Sandino called them blonde beasts,
the US marines
Liberation priests said they killed just for
your beans
Eisenhower, Dulles, oh how they’d kill for
you
JFK and LBJ, you know they did it too

Sinatra sang about you
And the people sang along
The nation had to have you
And have you for a song

You spawned Lloyd’s of London
And bred the stock exchange
You sped up hungry workers
Oh they also got shortchanged
You made a rich man of Somoza
You made the fame of Juan Valdez
Where your aroma grows
A muscleman means what he says

You start with white explosions
On volcanic shattered rock
You sail off for a token
And land on every block

Sinatra sang about you
And the people sang along
The nation had to have you
And have you for a song
Sinatra sang about you
And the people sang along
The nation had to have you, for a song

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