The other major flaw with the album is the tone of smugness and self-righteousness that infects some of the songs, which is not an attractive quality in music. This primarily manifests itself in the lyrics. Personally, I think political music works best when it comes from a place of passion, or dark humor, or hope. But gloating condescension and moral superiority just make the artist sound a little assholish.
My least favorite song is "Let's Impeach the President," where Neil offers the bon mot "Thank god he's cracking down on steroids/Since he sold his old baseball team." To be honest, though, what really rubs me wrong about the song is Neil's use of "let's" and "we" and "our" and other inclusive terms when, despite the fact that he's lived here for many years, he's not a US citizen. I don't mind a Canadian insulting our president, but I don't think he should be including himself in the "let's." He scoffs about "the days of Mission Accomplished" on "Shock and Aww." He insists that "The people have spoken/You might not like what they said/But they weren't joking" on "The Restless Consumer." And on "Looking For a Leader" I feel that he starts to pander, saying the next president could be "a woman, or a black man after all," a line that only exists to get applause. (Not to mention, why no shout-out to Jews, Asians, Hispanics, Muslims and the countless other minorities who have never held America's highest office?)
Problems extend to the music itself. The album was cranked out pretty quickly, and there's a Greendale-like sense of the music being subordinate to the lyrics. The overall sound of the album is Crazy Horse-esque midtempo rock, with the welcome occasional addition of a trumpet. Okay, but then Neil decided to go ahead and record a 100-person choir singing backup for all of the songs. Even ignoring the fact that it adds to the album's sometimes self-righteous tone (as it's, I can only assume, supposed to be the voice of America joining Neil in speakin' out), it just sounds like shit. It doesn't match the album's grungy, low-fi sound, and is awkwardly layered in under all the fuzz. It has the grating quality of one of those Kidz Bop albums they always used to show commercials for on TV; tuneless, homogenized and obnoxious.
The album does shine on a few occasions, usually when Neil gets less specific and tries to process things poetically and personally (as I've mentioned many times before, I tend to think he should stick to writing inward). The album's opener, "After the Garden," is a catchy and effective cautionary tale about the post-apocalyptic world we may be living in if we don't take better care of the planet. On "Flags of Freedom," Neil sings "Have you seen the flags of freedom?/What color are they now?/Do you think that you believe in yours/More than they do theirs somehow?", a powerful sentiment that seems both more timeless and generalized, and a little more thoughtful and nuanced than many of the other lyrics on the album. The best song, by far, is the title track, a beautiful and moving song about the emotional toll of war that is so eloquent in its antiwar message that it, frankly, makes the rest of the album seem pointless.