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Could protest songs be making a comeback?

DALLAS — Jamie Laurie, one of two frontmen for the suddenly successful alt-rock/rap outfit Flobots, is onstage at a crammed Pontiac Garage, the smaller room at the House of Blues, explaining his choice of neckwear: an American flag.

"It’s not about blind patriotism or desecrating the flag," says Laurie, who also goes by the more lyrical name Jonny 5. He then quotes the late poet Langston Hughes’ Let America Be America Again and says it’s all about the America of the future.

"We are building a movement!" he shouts.

Such sloganeering might be easily dismissed as rock ’n’ roll bravado, but the Denver-based Flobots are doing something that hasn’t been seen in a while: bringing overtly political, message-oriented music back onto the Top 40. Their outwardly upbeat Handlebars single — with its lyrics warning of guided missiles, political assassinations and nuclear holocaust — has just broken through that threshold. Flobots’ full-length album, Fight With Tools, has already hit the Top 15 on the albums chart.

Handlebars stands out at a time when pop radio reverberates to the teen-scream shenanigans of Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers, the post-crunk club grooves of Flo Rida and Lil Wayne, and all things American Idol.

From listening to pop radio, few would know that the U.S. is involved in two wars and a hotly contested presidential election, or that economic worries abound. The most pressing issue on Katy Perry’s mind seems to be telling everyone I Kissed a Girl, the song that has dominated contemporary-hit airwaves this summer.

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