You can't get more topical than no.4 in this list of 10 new political albums
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. JEN CLOHER - JEN CLOHER
On August 4, music platform Bandcamp protested against US President Donald Trump's transgender military ban by giving its proceeds to trans rights and promoting a playlist of trans artists. Days later, Australia's government announced a non-binding postal vote on marriage equality, prompting Melbourne comedian Tim Minchin to release the song "I Still Call Australia Home...ophobic", which went viral. On August 11, Jen Cloher released her new album, which describes the rise to pop fame of her female partner, Courtney Barnett, and takes the unusual step of trying to understand supporters of Trump, Brexit and homophobic former Australian PM Tony Abbott. The album, which acknowledges that "indie rock is full of privileged white kids, I know because I'm one of them", came as Black, gay "Apple store rapper" Prince Harvey announced an album of 100 protest songs against Trump. Later in the month, MTV hit back at Trump by inviting trans soldiers to its music video awards. LISTEN>>>
2. NECK DEEP - THE PEACE AND THE PANIC
If politics is the entertainment division of the military industrial complex, then entertainer-in-chief Trump well and truly jumped the shark on August 8, by suggesting he was about to launch nuclear war against North Korea (while on his golfing holiday). On August 12, Koreans pleaded for peace by holding the DMZ Peace Concert on the border of North and South Korea. It was followed six days later by The Peace And The Panic, the apt new album from Welsh pop punks Neck Deep. On "Happy Judgement Day" they sing: "Is it just me or does anyone else feel like this could be farewell? We almost had it, then we pissed it all away. Building walls, dropping bombs, stop the world I'm getting off. We almost had it, thought I'd never see the day, when the world went up in flames." A week later, US country rockers decker also took a risk by speaking out against Trump ("Do we really want to potentially alienate half of our fans when we have so few to begin with?"), on their new album, Into The Red. LISTEN>>>
3. NADINE SHAH - HOLIDAY DESTINATION
As soon as the panic over Trump's nuclear threats subsided, he switched the world's focus to Afghanistan and thrust nuclear-armed Pakistan into the crosshairs. Three days later, British Pakistani artist Nadine Shah released her acclaimed new protest album, which asks why she is demonised as "Evil". The album's title, Holiday Destination, was inspired by her brother's documentary on Syria and seeing British tourists complaining that Syrian refugees were "ruining their holiday" in Greece. The album, which samples the chants of refugee protesters, came days after the release of an album by Sydney refugee supporter Zand / Cosmogenic and the death of another refugee detained by Australia. The same day, Gogol Bordello spoke up for refugees as they released their new album, which crosses the same territory as the new album from Russkaja. As Pakistan's nuclear-armed neighbour ratcheted up tensions, musicians from India's lowest caste, including Ginni Mahi, released new protest albums. LISTEN>>>
4. VARIOUS ARTISTS - WORLD WAR 2020, EPISODE 5 'FAKE NEWS' (CNN VS TRUMP)
On August 12, hip-hop artist De'Andre Harris was badly beaten by racists in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a white supremacist killed anti-racist protester Heather Hayer by slamming his car into a rally, injuring 19 others. Days later, sensitive soul Trump retweeted an image of a "Trump train" mowing down a CNN reporter, sparking outrage. On August 22, satirical music collective Hard Vapour Resistance Front released their new compilation Fake News: CNN Vs Trump, which managed to be this month's most topical record by skipping the usual months of begging for publicity that artists go through before they release an album. By sticking it straight up on Bandcamp, they showcased samples of Trump blaming "both sides" for Charlottesville over pounding techno beats, just days after he said it, along with 35 other diverse tracks. Even quicker off the mark were experimental metal band Wolf Eyes, who released a fundraising record for Hayer just a day after her death. LISTEN>>>
5. KMFDM - HELL YEAH
Also taking the piss out of Trump were German industrial pioneers KMFDM with their song "Fake News", found on their 20th album, released on August 18. Over samples of Trump press secretary Kellyanne Conway prattling about "alternative facts", they sing: "Detached from opposing points of views and values, the top of the food chain will decide what they'll tell you." Just two weeks earlier, another seasoned satirist almost released a song about Trump on his new album, then didn't. Claiming it was too vulgar, Randy Newman instead included a piss-taking song about Vladimir Putin that was presumably more acceptable to the Oscar-winning film composer's record company. Over in Brexit Britain, young Blur-soundalike Rat Boy went for the full piss-take with a Trump impersonator declaring on "TrumpTowers Interlude": "As your new president, I will be making it my forefront priority to make sure my family have the best healthcare, houses and cars that your money can buy..." MORE>>>
6. MISS EAVES - FEMINASTY
Trump's blaming of "both sides" in Charlottesville was the final straw for even some of his staunchest supporters. Perhaps taking their cue from Iris Dement's "We Won't Keep Quiet", country music's biggest stars began breaking their silence to condemn the president. Less surprisingly, rappers also let rip. On the new album from R-Mean, who is releasing 52 songs in 52 weeks, guest emcee The Game raps: "Trump won't acknowledge what happened, so it's evident, we can't acknowledge a racist pig as our fucking president." If all-male rap braggadocio makes you gag, check out Miss Eaves' new album, Feminasty, out on August 4, which hits back at Trump's pussy-grabbing sexism with righteous raps over crotch-kicking beats. As Trump kept everyone distracted, his ilk continued their neoliberal assault on the planet. Pushing back with environmentally-themed albums were Irish folk singer (and vegan food truck operator) Sharon Shannon and English anti-fracking experimentalists Wireless World. LISTEN>>>
7. EMA - EXILE IN THE OUTER RING
Experimental US electronic artist EMA has long been warning that the rustbelt rot in her country is a powder keg waiting to explode. The title of her August 25 album, Exile In The Outer Ring references the suburbs to which the underclass is cast, which can be seen from Austin to Australia. On "Aryan Nation", written three years ago, she cites the rise of the alt-right, yet claims "I had no clue how much that would explode in 2017". One day before Charlottesville erupted, punk activists Downtown Boys also released a new album blasting racism. But after Charlottesville, many activists questioned whether meeting violence with violence was the best approach. Californians instead left dog faeces along the route of a fascist march dubbed the "Turd Reich". Germans humiliated Neo-Nazis by sponsoring their marches for leftist charities. And in Britain, the English Defence League were ridiculed by the English Disco Lovers, who danced among them while stealing their acronym. LISTEN>>>
8. AGENT OF CHANGE - SOUL LIBERATION
In the homeland of the English Disco Lovers, hip-hop producer Agent Of Change released a worldly new beat-tape on August 5 that looked way beyond the confines of England. The highlight, however, is "Bullet-Proof Vest - Justice For Grenfell" which samples a fiery statement about London's Grenfell Tower disaster made by film-maker Ishmahil Blagrove. "Having listened to one of Ishmahil Blagrove's interviews, I felt it was so powerful it should be put to music," he says. On August 9, Agent Of Change's sometime collaborator Lowkey also put out a song about Grenfell. A day later, another Agent Of Change collaborator, US rapper Marcel Cartier, released a song in solidarity with the government of Venezuela as it continued to be attacked by all sides of politics, despite its many gains. Just days earlier, across the border from Venezuela, British expat producer Quantic put out a new album with Nidia Góngora, representing the indigenous gold-panning women of Colombia. LISTEN>>>
9. BIRDZ - TRAIN OF THOUGHT
Back in Australia, the struggles of Indigenous people intensified. On August 18, Yarra council was stripped of its citizenship powers for cancelling Australia Day celebrations, which mark Europeans' invasion of the country on January 26, 1788. In return, Aboriginal rapper Briggs slammed the Prime Minister as a "coward". That same day, rapper Birdz released his debut album on Briggs' label, Bad Apples, as activists inspired by Charlottesville called for the removal of racist statues in Australia. On "Crown Thieves", Birdz raps over clean, bass-heavy beats: "They tryin' to bring us down, they standin' on sacred ground, but they stole it bruz, it's them versus us, the only thieves that wear a crown." The album is packed with radical rap, but he also mocks stereotypes, spitting on "The Other Side": "They call me Mr Birdz, political rapper in Aboriginal hip-hop, then they get pissed off when they catch me in a whip, puffing the herb and vibing out to Rick Ross." LISTEN>>>
10. IZZY - SNAKE EYES
On August 21, fellow Aboriginal rapper Izzy released his debut solo album, just a fortnight after his Western Sydney suburb of Penrith held protests against a carcinogen-belching incinerator being built in their back yard. On lead single "Western Sydney", Izzy raps: "Western Sydney, Penrith born and raised. They say nothing good comes out of these ways. Surrounded by the gutter but still we shine. Izzy from out West, the different kind." Elsewhere, he fuses didgeridoo and breakbeats into the kind of hybrid polyrhythms also found on this month's new album from Sydney indie darlings The Preatures. In a similar melding of Indigenous and non-Indigenous sounds, the band recorded lead single "Yanada" partly in Sydney's Aboriginal language, after seeing it spoken in colonial play The Secret River. Perhaps all too aware The Secret River was criticised for being told from a white perspective, they took the time to ensure the relevant Aboriginal communities were happy with the release. LISTEN>>>
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mat Ward is an Australian-based journalist who has been writing for Green Left Weekly since 2009. He also makes political music and wrote the book Real Talk: Aboriginal Rappers Talk About Their Music And Country.
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.
The multi-award-winning journalist John Pilger says: "There are few other newspapers — radical or any other kind — that draw together news and analysis that is as well informed, credible, and non-sectarian as Green Left Weekly. Its work has influenced mine and has been a beacon to those who believe the press ought to be an agent of the people."