10 awesome new political albums that skewer the 1%
By Mat Ward
1. DIVIDE AND DISSOLVE - ABOMINATION
At the start of the month, activists in Perth protested against visiting British far-right politician Nigel Farage as his US counterpart, Steve Bannon, was given a fawning prime-time slot on Australian TV. Meanwhile, ex-political prisoner Chelsea Manning was denied a visa to enter the country, despite having been pardoned by former US President Barack Obama. Pointing out the hypocrisy were Melbourne's radical drone music duo Divide and Dissolve. "It sucks that someone like Chelsea Manning is being banned from coming to Australia to speak, when these other white supremacists are being welcomed by the politicians and the government," they said as they took a break from touring New Zealand on September 7. They tackle Australia's historical hypocrisy in their music video for "Resistance", in which they gather their own urine in water pistols then shoot it at statues of colonists. Such monuments dot the nation, while Aboriginal history and genocide is all but ignored. LISTEN>>>
2. JEREMY ROSE - IRON IN THE BLOOD
Pointing out that same hypocrisy was 9-year-old schoolgirl Harper Nielsen, who was suspended from her Brisbane school on September 7 for refusing to stand for the national anthem during assembly. "When it says 'we are young' it completely disregards the Indigenous Australians who were here before us for over 50,000 years," she said, prompting politician Pauline Hanson to label her a "brat". Embracing that history is jazz musician Jeremy Rose, whose album Iron In The Blood is a musical adaptation of Robert Hughes' unflinching history of Australia, The Fatal Shore. "It really changed my perspective on Australia," he said of the book as he limbered up for a September 23 performance of the album, which lurches evocatively from flowing melodies to clashing, dissonant tones. Noting Australia's early failed experiment of excising people to offshore islands as a deterrent, Rose said: "You can still see a lot of those mistakes happening here on Manus and Nauru." MORE>>>
3. THE SHIFTERS - HAVE A CUNNING PLAN
A chief champion of offshoring refugees to islands like Nauru is Murdoch columnist Andrew Bolt, who hosted Pauline Hanson on his TV show this month to showcase her push for a Senate resolution declaring: "It's OK to be white." Hitting back were Melbourne indie popsters The Shifters with their new album, released on September 21. On their slightly surreal song "Andrew Bolt", they sing: "Andrew appears like a bolt from the blue with a giant chip on his shoulder and says: 'The Greens got in and I shot myself, I shot myself.' He shot himself. He saw funds for the Sun drop like a ton and saw no reason to go on. The UFU, Marxist MPs and relaxed immigration tipped Mr Bolt right over the edge, right over the edge." A day later, rapper and former refugee MIA called for Australian airlines to stop assisting with the forced deportation of asylum seekers, saying: "The stories of how children, women and men are treated when they seek asylum in Australia are horrifying." LISTEN>>>
4. SOLE - NUCLEAR WINTER 3
On September 15, former Lehman Brothers employees were planning to hold a party to "celebrate" the 10-year anniversary of the collapse of their bank, which brought on the Great Financial Crisis yet caused none of them to be jailed. A day earlier, one of the few emcees to rap about money in an analytical way - Sole - released his new album, looking back at the past seven years of financial corruption. On "Ben Bernanke", he tears strips off one of the chief bailers of the banks, rapping: "One plus one equals two. I'm Ben Bernanke, dog. Two plus two don't equal five. Do the math, dog. Let's occupy Wall Street, watch the girls getting maced. Democracy has failed, let's print some more money... Arrest me, I'm Ben Bernanke." As the media took a break from moaning about Donald "mushroom penis" Trump to mark the anniversary of the crisis, it took a Rolling Stone journalist - Matt Taibbi - to point out that it was the crisis and the austerity that paid for it that got Trump elected in the first place. LISTEN>>>
5. FEROCIOUS DOG - THE RED ALBUM
Attacking the bankers who got off scot-free while the poor paid the price are Celtic punks Ferocious Dog, with their latest album. On "Class War" they sing: "You strip away the rights from the working man. You kick the poor around just because you can. Keep him in his place, it's all part of the master plan. Deprive an education for the lower class. You even tried to privatise the NHS. Put the blame on the workers, not the bankers, for this goddamn mess. Money for the rich taken from the poor. All you do is take, but you still want more. Deposit all your millions in a bank upon a foreign shore. Class wars are raging on the streets of England." As they prepared for a gig in Blackpool on September 22, they encouraged fans to bring along food to donate to their Charity Food Drop for the homeless. The food drop came about after frontman Ken Bonsall's son Lee killed himself after serving in Afghanistan, leading Bonsall to discover many ex-servicemen were destitute. MORE>>>
6. THEE DEADTIME PHILHARMONIC - ESTATE OF THE HEART
In the introduction to Propaganda Blitz, a new book by award-winning media analysts Media Lens released on September 20, journalist John Pilger covers similar ground. "'Austerity' is an invention," he writes. "Britain is a rich country with a debt owed by its crooked banks, not its people." Yet it is thanks to the likes of Media Lens that people are no longer fooled the way they once were by the media. The fact the "anti-Semitic" smear against Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn hasn't dented his party's support suggests it is only making the media look like fools. Unfooled are proudly working-class band Thee Deadtime Philharmonic, who open their album with the words: "No guts, no backbone, nothing to commend you whatsoever. Mere fodder for the mass media." And on "Babylon Workin'" they sing: "Another kid killed by the cops, another riot kicking off. The papers only talk about the cost, not a mention of a mother's loss." LISTEN>>>
7. ORBITAL - MONSTERS EXIST
On September 15, more mothers lost their children as drugs took the lives of revellers at a Sydney rave, yet politicians continued to reject the only measure proven to save lives - pill-testing. Three days later, rave music pioneers Orbital announced their first Australian tour in seven years, to support their politically-charged new album, led by the Brexiteer-baiting single "Please Help UK". "It feels like we're living in a Monty Python sketch about how shit politics is," they said while discussing the predictably potent album, released on September 14. "Politically, the whole world is in a big fucking hole. Jesus! The Peace Treaty is turning into a fucking shambles. The environment. Fucking irresponsible, that’s what it is. Brexit! A fuck-up! No matter which side of the fence you sit on, the vote has ended up with utter confusion. I don’t know if people think of us as a political band, but there are a few things we seem to be getting off our chests with this album." MORE>>>
8. MARC RIBOT - SONGS OF RESISTANCE 1942-2018
The political chaos in the US hit headlines worldwide on September 5, when The New York Times published an anonymous essay titled: "I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration." The media portrayed it as revolutionary, yet one key line showed it was anything but: "There are bright spots that the near-ceaseless negative coverage of the administration fails to capture: effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military and more." Having none of it was long-time activist and musician Marc Ribot. "Not Trump, nor his enablers in Congress," he said, while promoting his new album of protest songs, released on September 14. The diverse album, which features stars like Steve Earle and Ribot's long-time collaborator Tom Waits, came about when Ribot played at The Women's March in Washington. "I noticed there were these dedicated political movements without music," he said. "I decided to curate and write a bunch of tunes that could be used now." LISTEN>>>
9. LONNIE HOLLEY - MITH
Also tapping into the political chaos was visual artist-turned musician Lonnie Holley with his September 21 album, led by the self-explanatory single "I Woke Up In A Fucked-Up America". The song came about while Holley was on tour shortly after Trump got elected and someone asked the then-67-year-old singer how he'd slept. "I woke up in a fucked-up America," he replied and, liking the sound of his own words, added: "Write that down!" Holley's sparse, experimental blues is as surreal as America's politics and the outlandish story of his own harrowing life. He says he was the seventh of 27 children and was traded for a bottle of whisky at the age of four to an adoptive father who was an abusive alcoholic. His attempts to run away landed him in the Alabama Industrial School for Negro Children, whose labour conditions were so indistinguishable from slavery that they spawned a federal lawsuit. Such conditions are evoked in the album's 18-minute opus, "I Snuck Off the Slave Ship”. LISTEN>>>
10. VARIOUS ARTISTS - 27: THE MOST PERFECT ALBUM
Offering a sliver of hope amid all the chaos was 27: The Most Perfect Album, which invited famous musicians from all genres to create songs about each of the 27 amendments to the US Constitution. Released on September 18, the album is far less patriotic and more radical than might be expected, kicking off with First Nations rapper and activist Joey Stylez, who riffs on the first amendment and the murderous religious persecution of indigenous people. A highlight for many will be country star Dolly Parton, who tells listeners women have been fighting for their rights "since the very beginning of time”. “They said a woman's place was staying in her hut," she sings. "Washin’, cookin’ cleanin’, wipin’ babies butts. They said she’d never see the day, we’d equal up to them. But here we are, we’ve come so far, I guess we sure showed them.” Many will balk at her triumphant tone, but the whole album shows the power of protest to effect change, however incremental. LISTEN>>>
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 just released a new album about Elon Musk. Follow him on Spotify here.
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