KJNB Vault Album Review: EPA – Water Quality Report PSA

September 20, 2009

Artist: Environmental Protection Agency
Album: Drinking Water. Know What’s In It For You
Released: Self-released, 2004

Is this a glass which I see before me, the portal towards my mouth? Come, let me drink thee.

I never realized the Environment Protection Agency was in the business of making music, but in the course of KJNB’s massive overhaul of our CD collection, I came across this one-of-a-kind release. When I saw it, I knew I had to listen to it!

The first two tracks start off the release in a fascinating deconstruction of our need for regularity. Both songs use the same lyrics and music, but different voice actors (you could even say the lyrics are more spoken word than sung). But while the female voice on Report Card(1) is pleased with the quality of her water, Report Card (2) is a different story. You can hear the woman’s voice strain as she tries to inject pleasantness at the thought that her water quality is great, but the very regularity of her life is wearing her down. I never realized the EPA would put out such a damning indictment of American Suburbia.

“Water Sayings” questions whether we can truly know anything about the world around us, even something so seemingly basic as our water supply. And “For Granted” admonishes us for taking anything for granted, instead advocating a radical skepticism of all received knowledge unless deductively proven. I would never have guessed the EPA would assault the philosophical groundings of science so harshly. It’s opened my eyes.

As for music, the cheerful organ line and jazzy bass seem to contradict the harsh insights of th ads themselves. But if we look at the music as providing an analogy of modern-day American culture much makes sense. The music is really trying to cover over the knowledge the EPA wants to hand over to you, but can’t quite – reflecting how American pop culture does its best to ignore or cover up unwanted images or events. But the EPA knows what’s up. They know that truth always destroys the walls placed around it.

All in all, the EPA has blown my mind with the artistic achievement inherent in this short album – less than 4 minutes all together! That’s shorter than many songs! If only more artists took their cues from the EPA, and combined brevity with true genius. But maybe that’s asking too much. You can download all the tracks here: http://permanent.access.gpo.gov/lps21800/www.epa.gov/safewater/psa.html

The EPA(Office of Ground Water & Drinking Water) was:
Cynthia Dougherty – Director
Gregory Carroll – Chief of Technical Support Center
James Taft – Chief of Targeting & Analysis Branch

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