10 new political albums that will change your perspective
By Mat Ward
Here's a look back at this month's political news and the best 10 new albums that related to it (plus a few extra - count them). What albums would you suggest? Comment on Twitter, Facebook, or email. Videos not playing? Try a bigger screen.
1. MARY GAUTHIER - RIFLES AND ROSARY BEADS
Donald Trump kicked off the New Year by becoming the first US president to openly admit the nuclear arms race is a penis-measuring contest, with his "my nuclear button is bigger than yours" jibe against North Korea's Kim Jong-Un. But amid all of Trump's increased military spending on "beautiful equipment", little is being spent on the care of the veterans who return mentally scarred from their country's imperialist wars. Step up "gay, left-leaning" Nashville musician Mary Gauthier with her ninth album, which ditches her own stories of adoption, addiction and jail for those of the neglected returned soldiers. Two songs on the album deal specifically with women's experiences in the military, including "Iraq", which opines: "It was so hard to see it until it attacked, but my enemy wasn’t Iraq." Also speaking up for women was Shame, the new album from Gauthier's fellow Nashville muso Rachel Baiman, who is campaigning against Trump with the Folk Fights Back movement. MORE>>>
2. SALOME MC - EXCERPTS FROM UNHAPPY CONSCIOUSNESS
Trump, always spoiling for a fight with Iran, was quick to throw his support behind Iranians' protests against their government this month. As protesters were killed, Trump's critics called his support fake, pointing out that he'd banned Iranians from coming to the US just three months earlier. On January 26, Yale University held a symposium to explore the impact of popular music on Iranian society. Performers included the "Bob Dylan of Iran", Mohsen Namjoo - whose latest album was released last June - and "the first woman in Iran to make hip-hop music", Salome MC. Released just weeks earlier, her LP Excerpts From Unhappy Consciousness has also been dubbed "the first full-length hip-hop album in Iran produced by a woman". The autobiographical concept album explores a woman's journey in the light of philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel's first book, Unhappy Consciousness, which is said to have helped develop communism. MORE>>>
3. SEIF - THE TIME MACHINE
Trump's provocative move to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel was followed by deadly strikes on Palestinians and the destruction of a tunnel from Gaza to Egypt on January 13. Hitting back was California-based Palestinian lawyer, activist and rapper Seif. Promoting his new album, he said of Trump's move: "The blowback from this heavy-handed 'diplomacy' will likely be catastrophic for the region and continue to expose the developing fault lines in the issue." The album's song "Post Ave to Palestine" tells how the struggle against institutional racism affects people from Post Avenue in New York's Manhattan all the way to Palestine and beyond. "Palestinian kids they be running a lot," he raps, "because the settlers got guns that the government got." However, his references to "bitches", "fake hoes" and "chasing money" are unlikely to win many fellow activists over. MORE>>>
4. DUBSKIN - LIGHT THE DARK
The effects of New York's institutional racism were felt this month as activists grieved the death of 27-year-old Erica Garner from a heart attack on December 30. She had developed post-traumatic stress disorder after her father, Eric Garner, was infamously killed by Staten Island police in 2014, followed by Trump encouraging other cops to not back down. On January 9, US reggae band Dubskin released their new album, which repeatedly shoots back at armed forces. On "Guns & Violence", they sing: "My heart goes out for all mothers' tears, when they lay another child to rest. Shot down by police or some neighbourhood fools - either way another senseless death. Politics use guns and violence, guns and violence to fight their wars. Police use guns and violence, guns and violence to protect their laws. Ghettos in guns and violence, guns and violence can't take this no more. Stop these guns and violence, guns and violence..." LISTEN>>>
5. TUNE-YARDS - I CAN FEEL YOU CREEP INTO MY PRIVATE LIFE
On January 11, the white supremacist in the White House asked an Oval Office meeting why the US had to accept immigrants from "shithole countries" - such as Haiti, El Salvador and African nations - then sparked a Twitter war over it with US rapper Jay-Z. On January 19, US band Tune-Yards released their deliciously different and danceable new album, on which singer Merrill Garbus tackles white supremacy. Garbus, who took part in a six-month workshop on race while she was working on the record, said: "The whole thing was surprising... A lot of the answers that I got doing that workshop were answers I didn't particularly want to hear, like: 'Talk to other white people.' My first response was, 'No! Why would I want to talk to Trump supporters, or my family that I don’t agree with?' But I will. I don’t want to alienate my fans who voted for Trump, because I want to talk to them. I want to talk about it all." MORE>>>
6. NEIL YOUNG & THE PROMISE OF THE REAL - THE VISITOR
Trump's regressive motto "Make America Great Again" is parodied on the new album by prolific US protest singer David Rovics. On "Make the Planet Earth Great Again" he sings: "We can stop spending money on antiquated technology, such as tanks and missiles and most other things military. We can use those vast resources to make us all safe and sound, windmills in the air, coal and oil in the ground. We can be the envy of the rest of the galaxy when we make the planet Earth great again." It came 10 days after fabled musician Neil Young released his latest album, which also mocks Trump's motto. On "Already Great", the long-time defender of the country's environment sings: "Already great. You're already great. You're the promised land. You're the helping hand. No wall. No ban. No fascist USA. Whose streets? Our streets. Whose streets? Our streets." MORE>>>
7. SUPAMAN - ILLUMINATIVES
Neil Young's last album threw a spotlight on the Indigenous activists fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock. As those same activists reflected on the first year of Trump - and how his predecessor Barack Obama was little better - Native American rapper Supaman released his latest album of staunch hip-hop. In promoting it, the emcee recalled how he made an award-winning protest music video with the Black Eyed Peas' Indigenous rapper Taboo at Standing Rock. "I went there about four different times, different occasions, and brought family out there to witness the movement," he said. "That was amazing, that was history being made, so I wanted them to see that and be a part of that... It was just all people coming together – clergy, Catholics, Muslims, all religions – and putting aside their differences to stand up for what we all need in this life to survive, which is water." MORE>>>
8. KARDAJALA KIRRIDARRA - KARDAJALA KIRRIDARRA
In Australia, Indigenous people continued to cop it from all sides in the run up to Australia Day, which celebrates the invasion of Britain's First Fleet on January 26, 1788. Youth radio station Triple J was vilified for changing the date of its much-loved Hottest 100 countdown to January 27 as a mark of respect to Aboriginal people. Hitting back, rock station Triple M announced an "Ozzest 100" countdown to run defiantly on January 26. Far-right politician Cory Bernardi then released his own Spotify playlist to celebrate Australia Day, which managed to anger both Spotify and many of the artists he'd featured. Aboriginal radio then ran its own "Original 100". On the day itself, thousands marched in protest across the country including in Sydney, where the rally ended at Yabun Festival. Performing at the event were the four-woman Northern Territory band Kardajala Kirridarra, whose album focuses on the place of Indigenous women in society and how they ought to be respected and celebrated. LISTEN>>>
9. BLONDIE - POLLINATOR
Eminem's new "political" album is rescued from misogynistic mediocrity only by producer Rick Rubin, who samples "I Love Rock And Roll" by super-strong woman Joan Jett on the stellar "Remind Me". Jett also lends her powerful presence to a potent protest track on the surprisingly strong new album by pop icons Blondie. In the video for album opener "Doom Or Destiny", she and Blondie's Debbie Harry play newscasters as the dumpster fire that is the daily Trump show rolls on all around them. They join a host of other pop artists suddenly finding a political voice on their new albums, including Justin Timberlake, Miguel, N.E.R.D. and Barenaked Ladies. Not to be upstaged, Broadway has even got in on the act, with anti-Trump musical We The People. MORE>>>
10. BEANS ON TOAST - CUSHTY
One artist who can't be accused of jumping on the political bandwagon is Britain's Beans On Toast, whose yearly protest albums are consistently strong. His latest, unsurprisingly, tackles Trump: "It's all smiles and thumbs up in the golden elevator," he sings, "with the democratically elected president of America. Man of the people, son of the billionaires, a vicious, lying bigot in the all-important chair. And I'm fucking terrified of what he's about to do - and I think that everybody should be terrified too. Because maybe if we're terrified, then we'll get organised, and do something about it when we come to realise, the world has just taken a dangerous turn, it's a slippery slope when the fires start to burn. We need to come together and be more than just the left. We need something new to get us out of this mess." MORE>>>
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mat Ward has been writing for Green Left Weekly since 2009 and authored the book Real Talk: Aboriginal Rappers Talk About Their Music And Country. He also makes political music and is about to release a future bass album about Elon Musk. Follow him on Spotify here.
Read about more political albums here.
Stream Green Left TV's political music playlist here.
3CR radio's Global Intifada show is a knowledgeable and diverse source of topical political music. Listen to it online here.
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