So I hear we are at war. That’s too bad. At least we have music to fall back on as an escape from the harsh realities of combat and Geraldo Rivera, right?

Wrong. Artists have always used their songs to educate and unite like-minded individuals in times of social upheaval. And it’s even easier today. Want to conscientiously object? Well, tear up that sheet music to “We Shall Overcome” and fire up your computer. The current war in Iraq has provided plenty of fodder for musicians who are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore, and it’s all just a click away.

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the most notable tracks, all of which can be heard for free on their respective artist’s website:

Beastie Boys, “In a World Gone Mad”

Sample Lyric: “You and Saddam should kick it like back in the day/ With the cocaine and Courvoisier.”

While it’s great to finally hear something new from the Boys, “World” feels a little too forced and contrived. You’d think that Buddhism would have taught them more about the joys of subtlety. Worth a listen just for the beat though: maybe they’ll change the words and release it on their next album in 2012.

Lenny Kravitz, “We Want Peace”

Sample Lyric: “The solution is simple and plain/ There won’t be peace if we don’t try.”

In a return to his “Let Love Rule” roots, Kravitz drops the F(unk)-bomb. While the song will hopefully help him get over his musical rut of the past five years, he still has a lot of work to do lyrically. “In a war there is nothing to gain/ And so many people will die”? Thanks for the lesson in military history, Lenny.

System of a Down, “Boom”

Sample Lyric: “Every time you drop the bomb, you kill the God your child had born.”

Picking up where Rage Against the Machine left off and where Audioslave is afraid to go, System of a Down sets off on a mission to piss you off. In a video directed by Michael Moore and based around clips from the Feb. 15 anti-war protests around the world, the band rants, raves and rocks carpal tunnel-inducing riffs.

R.E.M., “The Final Straw”

Sample Lyric: “And I offer love with one condition/ With conviction, tell me why.”

Wow, when did Michael Stipe turn into Joan Baez? It’s kinda hot.

Green Day, “Life During Wartime”

Sample Lyric: “A real war to fight against/ ‘Stead of our petty disagreements/ How can I rationalize/ My life during wartime.”

Who would have thought that Green Day would be the only band to get it right? Billie Joe’s simple, acoustic tune (not a cover of the Talking Heads song of the same name) turns the focus inward, challenging the listener to think, a novel idea in such heated times. Aww, how quickly they grow up.

–Andrew Roach