The Flames Of Discontent | Revenge Of The Atom Spies

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Revenge Of The Atom Spies

by The Flames Of Discontent

Alternative Protest song for today's dangerous times: topical music that unites urban folk with vintage pop, rockabilly, post-punk, Beat poetry, world music and Cold War imagery.
Genre: Rock: American Underground
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Stung Right
3:22 $0.99
2. Sixteen Tons
2:55 $0.99
3. September's Divide
4:02 $0.99
4. I Cannot And Will Not Cut My Conscience To Fit This Year's Fashi
2:26 $0.99
5. Contrasts
4:49 $0.99
6. Revenge Of The Atom Spies
3:45 $0.99
7. Who's To Blame
4:01 $0.99
8. Ballad Of The Big Wind
3:03 $0.99
9. Walls
5:34 $0.99
10. Joe Hill
3:06 $0.99
11. Song Of The Translucent Liberal
4:06 $0.99
12. You Are The UnAmericans And You Should Be Ashamed Of Yourselves
1:39 $0.99
13. Injustice
2:54 $0.99
14. Viva La Quince Brigade
3:38 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes

'REVENGE OF THE ATOM SPIES' was recorded in the cold reality of upstate New York in January, 2007. Even with the peripheral knowledge of a new Congress in place, our immediate view was confronted by an endless, illegal war waged by an illegitimate president. The promise of the New Year—one without a Right-wing stranglehold of Washington—continues, yet both the butcher’s bill and the deficit continue to swell. Civil liberties, labor laws, women’s rights, environmental protections, and immigrants’ rights have been strip-mined. Suspicion of other continues, even as our loyalty is questioned. Today, we live in a frightening reflection of the infamous Red Scare periods in US history: the first one was in 1919, the second in the 1930s, and the third, which began in 1947, boiled over in the 50s, only seemed to fade by the 70s.

This compact disc is a collection of topical song and prose informed by past and current events. Cold War-style sounds and imagery speak in real time and in metaphor. Strains of folk, vintage pop, punk and world music suggest a Protest Song for today’s dangerous times…
…when listening to this album, please do so with eyes facing straight ahead as well as within range of your rear-view mirror.

* * * * * * * * * * *

"John Pietaro, Laurie Towers and company have recreated the mood of the 1950s Witchhunt...and just in time for the newest waves of intended repression. While a large swath of liberal opinion, a half century or so ago, joined the Cold War crusade, eager to grab a share of the swag that would be handed out to cooperative intellectuals and artists, a larger number of dedicated artistic activists held to their positions and took the blows, determined not to give the McCarthyites the satisfaction of wiping out dissent entirely. Pietaro and Towers recall the fight-back that looked ahead to the revival of social movements during the 1960s. Likewise now, with musical verve and lively lyrics, the Flames of Discontent call us to the colors of the hopes that they will be Red." -Paul Buhle, historian/author

"This is no time for complacency; this is time for the Flames of Discontent" - Greg Gattine, WDST Radio Woodstock

"Riffs sharp enough to cut the US deficit" - Whisperin & Hollerin (UK indie music site)


The Flames of Discontent are John Pietaro (vocals, electric and acoustic 5-string banjo, drumkit, xylophone, percussion) and Laurie Towers (lead electric bass guitar).

With Rafael Figueroa-percussion/vocals

The Flames' repertoire combines daring reconstructions of classic protest music along with original topical songs, spoken word pieces and improvisation. Their sound fuses strains of rockabilly, jazz, punk and ‘60s pop to the folk/protest genre, producing a mix that is simultaneously edgy and familiar. With the September 2005 release of their first CD, I Dreamed I Heard Joe Hill Last Night…A Century of IWW Songs (credited to “John Pietaro & The Flames of Discontent”), the Flames have been regularly performing their brand of radical song throughout New York State’s Hudson Valley area and in New York City. The CD, described by Chronogram magazine as, “kick-ass music for the masses…noble and timely”, was recorded in honor of the Industrial Workers of the World’s centenary and produced in accordance with historian/author Paul Buhle. Pulse magazine described the Flames sound as “radicalism through song”.

In March of 2007, they released their second album, 'Revenge of the Atom Spies', a collection that metaphorically comments on contemporary struggles for social justice and civil liberties through the imagery and some of the sounds of the Cold War years. In contrast to the first disc, this one is largely comprised of originals but vintage songs are included as well, albeit treated to the Flames unique arrangements and irony. Liner notes were written by Buhle.

The Flames’ music has been heard WDST-FM "Radio Woodstock" (Woodstock NY) as well as WVKR-FM (Poughkeepsie NY), WBAI-FM (New York City), KAOS-FM (Olympia, Washington), Radio Labourstart (internet radio from London, UK), and Oscar Brand’s esteemed folk music program on WNYC (New York City), among many others. They performed for New York area IWW centenary celebrations and also for May Day, Labor Day, anti-war and social justice events including the West Point Peace Rally (2006, 2007), various fundraisers for progressive political campaigns and for the conventions of the Retail, Warehouse and Department Store Workers Union (2006 and 2009). The Flames also organize and host annual tribute concerts for Phil Ochs, Woody Guthrie (Woodstock NY) as well as the Dissident Arts Festival, and were featured performers at The Woodstock Fringe Festival (July and September, 2006).


John Pietaro: When not engaged as the Flames front man, Pietaro is known as a xylophonist-percussionist performing on NYC's improvisation, experimental music and jazz circuits---most often combining his edgy music with Left politics. He has performed with Alan Ginsberg, Karl Berger, Pete Seeger, Fred Ho, Amina Baraka, and his quartet Radio NOIR and many others and his music has been heard at Labor rallies and other progressive events including The Million Worker March (2004, Washington DC) and The Solidarity Rally for TWU Local 100 (2002, NYC). He has also organized many concerts including those commemorating Hanns Eisler (1998, NYC), Woody Guthrie (2001, NYC) and May Day (multiple years, NYC, Beacon, Kingston NY) and is the producer of the annual Dissident Arts Festival. Pietaro's articles have appeared in“Z” Magazine, Political Affairs, the Nation, Portside, Fifth Estate, Groundscore, People’s Weekly World and others. He holds degrees in music and certification in Organizing. By day, Pietaro works as a union organizer.

Laurie Towers is the Flames’ lead instrumentalist. In addition to her extensive music career, she is an alternative health practitioner and independent businesswoman in addition to being a writer and artist. She is an active feminist and has been a guest speaker at programs for women in “safe houses” and other locations and has acted as a mentor for girls who have been deemed “at risk”. Her music is deeply influenced by jazz and rhythm-and-blues, particularly the bass playing of Carol Kaye, James Jamerson and Charlie Haden. In addition to the Flames, Towers is a member of the dissident swing quartet Radio NOIR.



to write a review

David Malachowski, Daily Freeman newspaper

"Hudson Valley heroes bring back protest songs"
DAILY FREEMAN, April 13, 2007

Artist: The Flames of Discontent
Album: "Revenge of the Atom Spies' (Hidden Agenda Records)

Hudson Valley heroes The Flames of Discontent, John Pietaro and Laurie Towers, have brought back the good, the bad and the ugly of the 1950s.

The good is the retro music and delivery, the bad is the Cold War references in many of the tunes and the ugly is the chilling reminder of McCarthyism.

Songs such as "Who's To Blame?" (about the government leak about ex-CIA agent Valerie Plame), "Ballad of the Big Wind" (concerning government inactions after Hurricane Katrian) and "September's Divide" (about the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks) reference current events, while "Song of the Tranlucent Liberal" (which stylistically brings to mind Trini Lopez) is about the weakness of many of those during the Red Scare and harks back to the 1950s.

Other 1950s tunes come alive as well, "Joe Hill", "Stung Right" and warhorse "Sixteen Tons" are strong, but maybe themost moving is a reading of Lillian Hellman's statement to the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1954. Most of the songs have a campy retro, Elvis vibe, while some ("Contrasts") recall Jacque Brel.

Times have changed, but maybe not as much as one would hope. With government again breathing down the necks of those who might have a different opinion (and calling them "unpatriotic") the underlying, unsaid message here is that though in the 1950s and 60s, musicians would often risk their careers with politically-charged material, these days--in the face of invasive government--no high profile artists (save Neil Young) have stepped up to the plate to protest.

Translucent liberals? Maybe.

Single-handedly bringing back protest songs, activists The Flames of Discontent have put their money where their mouthis, so take your money and get this CD.
For more information visit
David Malachowski - Daily Freeman (Apr 13, 2007)

Greg Gattine WDST-FM Radio Woodstock

This is no time for complacency; this is time for the Flames of Discontent!
"This is no time for complacency---this is time for The Flames of Discontent!"

Michael Sutton, CD Reviews

Lou Reed meets Elvis Presley in B&W Cold War melodrama

The Flames of Discontent: "Revenge of the Atom Spies"
Lou Reed meets Elvis Presley in black-and-white Cold War melodrama.
Despite the secret-agent disguises and B-movie packaging (the album title sounds like a 10-cent serial at the bijou), the Flames of Discontent aren't kidding. The group is quite serious about their liberal views, whether it's attacking the Bush government's poor response to Hurricane Katrina ("Ballad of the Big Wind") or paying homage to the late labor activist Joe Hill by covering a folk standard written about him ("Joe Hill").

However, left-wing propaganda records can be as boring and pretentious as right-wing ones if the group is musically inept. Thankfully, the Flames of Discontent (the duo of John Pietaro and Laurie Towers) are as fired up by rock & roll as they are by their politics. Revenge of the Atom Spies is an odd collection of rockabilly, folk, underground rock, jazz, and spoken word. In other words, it's the kind of record you'd expect from a beatnik combo in the early '60s.

At times, Pietaro recalls Lou Reed with his dry, deadpan voice, but there are moments, such as on the rockabilly number "Stung Right," wherein he will remind you of Elvis Presley in his rebellious, leather-jacket days. Of course, Presley was never political; his impact on the world was social, nothing to do with government policies and such. The title track is the most punky of all the songs on the CD, charging forward with spiked riffs and an urgent rhythm.

Usually protest albums are unplugged, letting the lyrics take center stage. The Flames of Discontent stick to that tradition on "September's Divide," "Ballad of the Big Wind," and, of course, "Joe Hill." However, they aren't shackled by it, and that makes all the difference.
Michael Sutton - (Jul 16, 2007)