In April of this year, James Ikeda (AKA The Michael Character), released “Do Your Work,” a folk punk anthem for the disenfranchised. Fully operational as a band with a plan since around 2011, Ikeda and company are finally beginning to get recognized for their contributions to the Boston scene and the timing couldn’t be sweeter. “Do Your Work,” is an absolute necessity for your ears. Completely self-conscious about his role in society, Ikeda, writes songs on personal responsibility and on the role of the artist as (legitimate) activist, (i.e. not just sharing posts on Facebook). This responsibility also falls onto the listener, (i.e. not just nodding heads in solidarity to a cool tune); it’s a give and take process. Also, one’s ethnicity isn’t a shtick or an invitation for one to have a more “diverse” group of friends. Ikeda drops bombs with his lyrics and completely annihilates audiences with a loaded guitar. “Do Your Work,” aims straight for the gut.
For those of us who have spent our lives checking the “other” box, the title track, “Do Your Work,” is a god-send with lyrics like: “…And while we’re on the topic of what’s yours and what’s mine/My racial identity ain’t yours to define/’Are you white, are you Asian?/ Or both? Just decide!’/Hey, I’ve got an idea/Go fuck off and die.” Race is also addressed on the comedic but essentially aggravating “Don’t Call Me Your Asian Friend,” where Ikeda deals with being the only non-white person in the room. “My race is not some bonus that you get when you like me/ That makes it good of you to want to be my friend/If you’re proud ’cause there’s an Asian name inside your contacts/Then fuck you, you’re a fossil, and you don’t fucking get it.” Anybody who has ever felt like they were fitting some sort of quota can relate to this one.
With all this rage, Ikeda doesn’t just point the finger outwardly. Noting his own failures, he looks inward on “Confessions of a Deeply Ashamed Recovering Misogynist (or, the Feminist Song),”. Rants on the patriarchy and feelings of regret towards using women for sport in his college days are addressed: “‘I think I love you babe’ to ‘well, there, I came/So I guess I’ll see you around/And I will find you in my phone/ Next time I am horny and alone'”. Recognizing the double standard between men and women’s sexuality, Ikeda admits,”But no one ever called me slut/Except as a weird compliment.” Slam dunk.
Ikeda is a talented songwriter and surrounds himself with fantastic musicians. Buy his album via Bandcamp at the unbelievable “name your own price” price and blast it everywhere. If Facebook rumors are true, Ikeda plans a hiatus. Let’s help prevent that.