Cincinnati Indie Band Warned Of Virus On Its 2006 Album, The Pestilence Is Coming
Music And Message Most People Ignored Over A Decade Before Coronavirus
Not many paid attention at the time, and I listened more for the music than the message. Nevertheless the title of the album itself, as we look back from the current crisis, seems uncanny fourteen years later.
It is called The Pestilence Is Coming, the masterpiece of a Cincinnati indie band known as the Minor Leagues. Front man Ben Walpole wove a dozen catchy power pop songs with clever lyrics, sometimes dark and often sprinkled with wordplay or keen observations on universal topics.
Most relevant among them is the title track, whose opening screams for our attention long before 2020.
"The pestilence is coming, there's no use in your running," Walpole says. "It's useless as resistance, You can"t hide from existence, and it's only a matter of time."
We now of course know exactly how much time: the fourteen years between the album's release and the outbreak of the coronavirus. Walpole's predictions did not stop there, however, as the song goes on to foresee other details of our current plight.
"The virus it spread, fifty six lay dead," he states, having naively expected that a double digit fatality count would shock people into taking the pestilence seriously.
Now that more than 130,000 lives have been taken by the current virus, the prediction of 56 sounds not at all alarming. Nevertheless, Walpole showed enough foresight to know that the national health groups would be unable to handle the pestilence, referencing the CDC (Council on Disease Control) in the last verse.
Because the aforementioned was at a loss as how to counter the virus, the song ends with much the same hopelessness we are experiencing now.
"Easy come was not easy go," Walpole says. " There was a time when I thought that I had some control over my destiny, but I've got no control over my destiny. "
As for the rest of the songs on The Pestilence Is Coming, their connection to today's plight is more indirect. Most of them encourage distancing, especially the single "Social Club." Its clear message is that, in order to avoid such evils as plagues, you best avoid parties and any other places with crowds.
"I've found a better (safer) place for me, and that place is called alone," comes from " Hitch 'em Up, " which reinforces the idea of self-quarantine.
The Minor Leagues even allude to our Northern neighbors who, it turns out, have avoided the devastation we have suffered from COVID-19. "French Canadia" and " Montreal, " as well as "Expatriates," foretell an urge to flee to Canada in hopes of escaping the plague.
The band went on to record just two more albums, and Ben Walpole himself returned to a career in journalism. As a news reporter he can cover the plague as it happens, although his current work will never be as musical or as prescient as his 2006 version.