Willamette Week


From Willamette Week’s Local Cut (May 28th, 2008)

[POLITICO-PUNK] In 1951, a group of Cambridge University professors did the unthinkable: defected to the Soviet Union. Known as the Red Dons, the profs left their native England not long after it was revealed they had passed information to the U.S.S.R. during World War II.

“What I really relate to is the antihero air about them,” says Doug Burns, singer-guitarist for the local punk band that takes its name from the incident. “There were these guys trying to do what they think is right, but were completely alienated from the world.”

It’s an apt comparison to the world Red Dons (the band) runs in: an underground punk scene that’s thriving in co-ops and basements across the country. Burns, once frontman for local punk band the Observers, and the rest of the Dons—bassist Hajji Husayn, drummer Richard Joachim and guitarist Andy Foote (who replaced early member Justin Maurer of the Clorox Girls)—will be diving right into this aberrant world for a monthlong tour supporting their debut full-length, Death to Idealism.

The amped-up album is a potent mix, combining the melodic swell of California-based peers Bad Religion and T.S.O.L. with the attitudinal stomp of vintage English counterparts like the Damned and early Elvis Costello. And, as you’d expect from a band with such a politically charged name, much of its content explores U.S. foreign policy borrowing chilling stories of the Middle East straight from personal experience. “Hajji moved to Amman, Jordan, 10 days before 9/11, says Burns, and lived through a year of intense anti-U.S. protest. He had guns pointed at him. He’d be in a cab going across town, and a riot would break out. He came back shell-shocked, and a lot of the songs are helping him to exorcise those demons.

In spite of this, Burns says the band doesn’t want to be seen as taking sides. People ask us all the time if we are pro-Palestine or pro-Israel, and we say, No. We’re none of these things.It’s hard because you get pegged as a fence sitter, but we don’t think it is as black and white as they make it out to be.

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