10 new albums that sum up the state of the world
By Mat Ward
1. SARAH MCQUAID - IF WE DIG ANY DEEPER IT COULD GET DANGEROUS
At the start of the month, activists from around the world gathered just south of the Great Barrier Reef to protest against Australia exporting more coal and gas than any country on Earth. The protest came 30 years after NASA scientist James Hansen first sounded the alarm on climate change. Summing up their sentiment is the new album from British folk artist Sarah McQuaid, which likens mining companies to children. McQuaid, whose great-great-great aunt won the Nobel Peace Prize, sings on its title track: "There's a boy in the garden with a shovel and a spade. He’s going to dig himself a hole that’s the biggest ever made... I say I know you’re having fun, I don’t want to make a fuss, but if you dig any deeper it could get dangerous. Now we’re drilling through the earth, building pressure all the time, splitting cracks in the rock to free the power inside... Some things are better left buried down under the crust - and if we dig any deeper it could get dangerous." LISTEN>>>
2. JEDI MIND TRICKS - THE BRIDGE AND THE ABYSS
On June 9, thousands of people rallied across the country in protest against another controversial Australian export - live animals. Joining the dots between animal cruelty and ecocide was the new album from veteran US hip-hoppers Jedi Mind Tricks, released on June 22. On "Making a Killing", activist Vinnie Paz raps: "Do you have compassion for everything alive, or animals don't matter to you, they can be deprived? Animals are individuals and have feelings too, they feel loneliness and happiness like people do. Twenty-five billion killed every year, the average person culpable for 90 plus a year... The rainforests being destroyed to raise cattle, wildlife habitat became the battle. They spray farms with herbicides and pesticides - you know how much poison is in insecticides? The same chemicals destroy topsoil, leak into the ground and turn the ocean into oil... I don't see it as being a conquest, but people need to fight while there's still time left." MORE>>>
3. JOHNNY MARR - CALL THE COMET
On the same day that people were rallying in Australia against live animal exports, fascists were rallying in England against immigration. Three days earlier, former Smiths singer Morrissey continued to confound fans, this time by expressing his support for English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson and the right-wing party For Britain. Staying closer to The Smiths' roots was the band's other songwriter, guitarist Johnny Marr, with his new album, released on June 15. "Everybody feels the aching, population is sick and shaking," he sings on "Bug". "That song is about the virus of right-wing ideology that is spreading through the nervous system of the Western world," said Marr, who released a song for the homeless last year. He "didn't care" about Morrissey trashing The Smiths' legacy, telling The Guardian: "You can't destroy history." The Guardian, meanwhile, continued its attack on British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, mocking his "Jezfest" music festival on June 16. MORE>>>
4. GENOCIDE PACT - ORDER OF TORMENT
On June 12, the world's cutest dictator, Kim Jong-un, met the world's strangest-looking dictator, Donald Trump, when the "two dictators" (Fox News) shook hands in Singapore. Amid all the declarations of world peace, aptly-named thrash metallers Genocide Pact were hitting out at all the hypocrisy with their new album. "We live in fucking Washington DC," they told the media the day before the Trump-Kim meeting. "We kind of live in the centre of everything. It's kind of all around us all of the time... There's some people making some decisions that are fucking up millions if not billions of lives right there... You never know what some guy in a suit that you're sitting next to on the metro, you don't know what the fuck he's about to do at work, and he could be drone striking a country remotely. There's a strange element of evil concealed in a suit." LISTEN>>>
5. METHAL - UNTITLED
The Trump-Kim meeting led Republicans to call, yet again, for Trump to get the Nobel Peace Prize. Yet while Trump and Kim were meeting, the US-armed Saudi Arabia was preparing an attack on Yemen that threatened 250,000 lives in a country where millions are struggling with famine. A week later, Yemeni refugee and musician Methal spoke on a panel at a Cannes conference titled "Creativity in the Age of Resistance". It was hosted by Spotify as a follow-up to its 2017 "I'm with the Banned" campaign, which featured Methal and five other artists from each of the six Muslim countries targeted by Trump's travel ban. Methal said that in Yemen: "Since I'm a girl, I wasn’t even allowed to think about the idea of studying music or even playing music in general... With what is happening now in the US politically, I’ve seen so many artists talking about politics, which I think is very important. That’s how change is made." LISTEN>>>
6. NERVOSA - DOWNFALL OF MANKIND
The day after the Trump-Kim meeting, British pop star Robbie Williams was being attacked in the Russophobic Western media for agreeing to play the World Cup's opening ceremony in Moscow, despite his recent song mocking Russian oligarchs. Back in the country of previous World Cup hosts Brazil, feminist thrash metallers Nervosa were promoting their June 1 album, Downfall Of Mankind. Crowned by highlight "Raise Your Fist" - which samples Martin Luther King and opens with the words "this one's for the activists" - it came as a feminist wave swept South America this month, from Chile to Venezuela and Argentina. Meanwhile, Brazil's former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva remained in jail, banned from the looming elections despite being the most popular politician in the country. Fittingly, Nervosa's fellow Brazilian metalheads MX were also promoting their new album this month, aptly titled A Circus Called Brazil. LISTEN>>>
7. CHA WA - SPYBOY
Days later, reports of refugee children being separated from their parents in the US sparked rare outrage across the corporate media, with the common cry of: "How could this happen in America?" Activists pointed out such practices had been going on for centuries, first with Native American children, then with those of African slaves for 250 years, and now with African American children, whose parents are disproportionately jailed for misdemeanours. Bridging that shared pain was the new album from New Orleans funk brass band Cha Wa, who celebrate the Mardi Gras Indian tradition, which began when African Americans first marched through New Orleans' streets in Native American dress on Mardi Gras day. With a heritage that is Choctaw, Cherokee and African American, singer J'Wan Boudreaux thanks Native Americans for being the first to take in runaway slaves on the album's spoken-word pinnacle, "J'Wan's Story". MORE>>>
8. STREET DOGS - STAND FOR SOMETHING OR DIE FOR NOTHING
As yet another refugee died in Australian detention this month and sparked outrage from his mother, Celtic punks Street Dogs released their new album, featuring pro-immigration song "The Round Up". Led by former Dropkick Murphys frontman and firefighter Mike McColgan, the band released the album, Stand For Something Or Die For Nothing, as Melbourne firefighters stood up for their rights. On “Lest We Forget”, McColgan - who still works as a dispatcher for the Boston fire department - honours a fallen workmate. Also honouring a fallen comrade was country musician Jesse Dayton, whose new album pays tribute to protester Heather Heyer, run over in Virginia by a fascist last year. On "Charlottesville" he sings: "Well, my grandaddy, he fought them sons-of-bitches, them Nazis and them snitches and talkin' ain't what got it done. We better rise up to the power, this ain't no time for cowards, when the clock strikes a witchin' hour... Say a prayer for sweet Heather Heyer." MORE>>>
9. LYRIC ADVISORY BOARD - THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVELTY
Also blending country music with politics were genre-bending Milwaukee satirists Lyric Advisory Board, with their new album, out on June 21. On album opener "American Carnage", they sing: "With a pitchfork and a password, wallet and a chain, power losses, burning crosses, heaven hath no shame, like a white man frightened, don't he look weak, don't think they'll wait to make that asshole bleed. With a hundred-dollar haircut another ape sits on the throne and he'll strut and piss and shake his fist and shove shit down your throat. And you'll say thank you, can I have some more? And there's another asshole lined up at the door." Joining them in the satire were arts-technology professors Poster Children, whose new album declares: "It's every man for himself, and every woman at 70% of the going rate." As the band's co-founder Rose Marshack, put it: "We’re an outlet for this frustration that people feel... It makes you realise you’re not alone, you’re not isolated." LISTEN>>>
10. KAMASI WASHINGTON - HEAVEN AND EARTH
At the end of the month, as police revealed scores of gay men in Sydney had probably been murdered for their sexuality, Poster Children's fellow teacher Johannes Wallmann was promoting his new gay rights jazz album, Love Wins. His promotion of the album, which samples actual court hearings of gay rights cases, followed the June 4 court victory for a US baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. “Jazz can and often does have a social consciousness,” said Wallmann, whose own gay marriage wasn't recognised when he moved from Canada to the US. Underlining his point, one of the biggest names in contemporary jazz, saxophonist and Black Lives Matter activist Kamasi Washington, released his epic new politically-charged album, weighing in at 2.5 hours, on June 22. Album opener "Fists Of Fury" declares: “Our time as victims is over. We will no longer ask for justice.” 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 releasing a future bass album about Elon Musk next month. Follow him on Spotify here.
Read about more political albums here.
Stream Green Left TV's political music playlist here.
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