PREMIERE: Joseph Arthur and His Piano Confront “Machines of War”
From the singer-songwriter's forthcoming album The Family.
Joseph Arthur found a piano. An old Steinway from the early 1900s. When Hurricane Sandy swept through New York in 2012, he kept it propped up on cinderblocks to save it from the flooding around his Red Hook, Brooklyn, studio. This piano, he learned, had been part of the same Connecticut family for nearly a century, which means that for a hundred or so years, it was a gathering space, a focal point, a box from which the soul of a small people emanated. Not the kind of thing you want to lose in the flood.
Arhtur’s new album, The Family, was written entirely on that piano, and it finds him ruminating on what it means to be a family, to be inextricably tied to a group of people based on nothing more than blood. That theme comes through in the video for single “Machines of War,” which we’re pleased to be premiering today. Arthur explains that the song is “part of the greater story in The Family. It’s sung from the perspective of my/one’s grandfather going off to fly a fighter plane in World War II. But as I wrote it and sung it, I did start feeling the emotion of the personal loss war creates.”
“The song also addresses that war is in our nature,” he continues. “The line ‘see how our children play, we are machines of war’ is both a plea from the protagonist to their mother/his wife to take care of his kids and at the same time evidence or an observation as to why he must go off to war in the first place. It’s in our nature. Watch out children. And watch our children.”
While the reality Arthur describes is stark, “Machines of War” isn’t. The piano line, though initially mournful, seems to want to jump up and away, almost as if it’s rising to the occasion—or else jerking against the civil constraints of rhythm—until finally, as the song rises around it, it begins to sing, one voice in a symphony of percussion, voices, and guitars, all storming ahead together.
You can check out the video for “Machines of War,” as well as The Family‘s cover and track list, below.
The Family track list
“With Your Life”
“They Called Him Lightning”
“When I Look at You”
“Machines of War”
“Ethel Was Born”
“You Wear Me Out”
“You Keep Hangin On”
“Daddy, the War Machine”