It’s shocking really that this is my first time writing about Dan Mangan on DOMINIONATED. His music has always been relevant to me since I first heard it in a movie theatre ad back in 2010. In a lot of ways, the past decade of my life has been shaped (for the better) by his bummer-tunes, and now — in the shit-show that is 2020 — he once again sweeps in with a little saving grace.
“There’s a Tumor in the Whitehouse” is one of many quarantunes to surface this year, unintended, and totally warranted. Sometime over his Side Door concert series in the summer, Mangan unofficially released a new tune called “Soapbox” in which he asks: “can a society have cancer?” Just days before the American election, eight months into the politically exasperated coronavirus crisis, we, unfortunately, have an answer in the title of his most recent track, “There’s a Tumor in the White House”.
Mangan’s bummeriest bummer tune is a direct response to the clown in the White House and the utter dread his terrorist reign over America causes in the hearts of anyone brave enough to see fascism for what it is. In the wake of barbarism, writing songs is perhaps the most civil way anyone can respond.
Dan Mangan’s lyricism is always highly nuanced, making his songs timeless vessels for ever-emerging insight. While he’s always retained his characteristic melancholic tone as his sound has evolved throughout his diverse career, this latest single is different. It’s plain and desperate in ways few of us have had to rationalize before this year. It’s the kind of matter-of-fact language that comes with a cancer diagnosis, followed up with the bits of optimism that keep us hopeful through every stage: “If you’re tired of the peril, the bullshit and the hate, go and call your uncle Darryll, maybe it’s not too late.”
I don’t know if a sad protest song is what others need to hear at this moment in time, but it’s definitely what I needed to feel a little less terrified of being alive right now: “Maybe it’s not too late…I really hope it’s not too late”.