10 new political albums that will ease your pain
By Mat Ward
1. CHERRY STAIN - BEYOND ALL REASON
This month kicked off with politician Pauline "I'm not racist" Hanson slamming the inclusion of Aboriginal performers at The Commonwealth Games as "disgusting". "I'm not used to Aboriginals who sing rap," said the racist superstar. But her headline-grabbing antics failed to stop Aboriginal protesters repeatedly making news during the games. A few days later, Newcastle teenagers Cherry Stain, whose first EP skewered Hanson, released their debut album. Packed with precocious politics, Beyond All Reason hollers for Aboriginal and refugee rights while slamming their city's coal industry. "One thing stressing me out about this hole is the whole obsession with the coal," they rap. "Coal's dead, get it through your head, we can get money from the sun instead." But was Hanson in touch with Australia when she called Aboriginal performers disgusting? It seems not. Days later, a posthumous album by Gurrumul, sung entirely in Indigenous language, went straight to No.1. LISTEN>>>
2. MISSY HIGGINS - SOLASTALGIA
Equally despairing of fossil fuels is Australian chart-topper and Indigenous studies scholar Missy Higgins, whose April 27 album is titled Solastalgia, "a neologism that describes a form of psychic or existential distress caused by environmental change, such as mining or climate change". The album came as protests continued around Australia against coal mining, the lifting of a ban on fracking, and new evidence that the Great Barrier Reef had been irreversibly "cooked". It also came days after BP was exposed for claiming one of its oil spills off the coast of Australia would help the country's economy. On "How Was I To Know", Missy Higgins sings: "When the order came to dig the well, to crack the earth to pull the oil, to take the blood out from my mother's veins, well I broke the ground to feed the mouth. I did not hear the warning sound, I could not put back in what I took out. How was I to know, how was I to know, I'd be a stepping stone to the end, the end of everything." MORE>>>
3. NTSIKI MAZWAI - THE MASTERPIECE
In South Africa, a country too familiar with colonial resource extraction, a new diamond was unearthed on April 13 in the shape of Freshlyground's latest album. Singer Zolani Mahola said of lead single "Blck Grls": "Growing up there were chores reserved only for girls. I was told I dressed in the wrong clothes, that I had to comb my hair, that I had too thick an African accent... When people listen to the song, I hope they feel a sense of freedom and untie themselves from the 'labels' others may be trying to force on them." A fortnight later, fellow South African Ntsiki Mazwai released her new album on South Africa's Freedom Day. "There are conversations that I want to start unpacking that necessitated the launch taking place on this day," she said, aiming at the Black noveau riche known as "black diamonds" for their mining wealth. "There's a line in one of my songs that says 'they want us to applaud them for being black diamonds, but they don't question the lack of melanin'." MORE>>>
4. EBO TAYLOR - YEN ARA
Addressing the other end of Africa's class divide, Ebo Taylor opened his new album, released on April 6, with a song about poverty in Ghana. "People are still paying for goods and for food, high prices that they can’t meet," said the highlife musician, who looks half his 82 years. "The prescriptions in the pharmacy are very high prices, and obviously, people will die from it." In the west of the continent, Senegalese rapper Didier Awadi released his new album, Made In Africa, on April 23, five years after his previous album, My Revolution. "During these 5 years that I did not release album, many situations have happened in Africa," he said. "Democracy has been attacked." It came as the leader of Senegal's colonial overlords, French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron, faced growing protests in his own country as he hit headlines for his "bromance" with Donald Trump, who still felt a need to belittle his "perfect" pal on the world stage by pointing out "dandruff" on his suit. LISTEN>>>
5. JANELLE MONáE - DIRTY COMPUTER
In Trump's America, Afrofuturist Janelle Monáe released her new album, Dirty Computer, on April 27, preceded by a 44-minute film. "Dirty Computer is a near-future story that takes place in a totalitarian society," she said of the film. "I play a citizen, living life, finding love, being myself in a society where that makes me an outlaw, something 'dirty' that the society needs to get rid of." It followed the new album by US rapper J Cole, which came amid protests over the police shooting of another unarmed Black man. On "BRACKETS", he raps: "Yeah, I pay taxes, so much taxes, shit don't make sense. Where do my dollars go? You see lately, I ain't been convinced... Let me pick the things I'm funding from an app on my screen. Better that than letting wack congressman I've never seen dictate where my money go, straight into the palms of some money-hungry company that make guns that circulate the country and then wind up in my hood, making bloody clothes." MORE>>>
6. MATT COX - HIGH PLACES
The election of the gun-loving Republicans with Trump at the helm inspired actor Jeff Daniels to pen "Hard To Hear The Angels Sing", found on his new live album. It shows that the musical persona of Daniels, who has released a string of albums, is less like his famed role as a hapless fuckwit in Dumb And Dumber and more like the sceptical news anchor he played in The Newsroom. Daniels cites Bruce Springsteen as an influence in making the song - echoes of whom are also on the new album by Matt Cox. The Nashville singer-songwriter keeps the politics muted until album closer "Donald", which tears orange strips off the president. "Hey pussy-grabber with your fake blond haircut, why don't you just go home," he sings. "Cos you can't take the heat so get your ass out the kitchen and leave all the women alone. You can't be a representative and be so insensitive to issues like gender and race. You may be a president but we all think it's evident, Donald, you're a total disgrace." LISTEN>>>
7. WAR ON WOMEN - CAPTURE THE FLAG
Also taking aim at Trump and his fellow misogynists are US hardcore punks War On Women, whose new album released on April 13 features the song "Predator in Chief". Lead single "Lone Wolves", which is about "the terrorism of entitled, angry white men that isn't called terrorism" was released on March 20, the same day that a US high-school student shot dead his 16-year-old ex-girlfriend. On it, frontwoman Shawna Potter spits: "They don't care if you live, they don't care if you die. It's only ever been about control." The album was released with a 16-page "companion workbook", which asks readers questions such as: "How are misogyny, homophobia and transphobia related?" Ten days after it was released, a Canadian calling himself an "incel" - or involuntarily celibate man - continued the worldwide war on women by driving onto a footpath in Toronto and killing several. Raging that the whole "system isn't working" were War On Women's fellow hardcore punks Pennywise, on their new LP. LISTEN>>>
8. GOAT GIRL - GOAT GIRL
Also hitting back at creepy men - literally - were London folk-punks Goat Girl, whose April 6 album features the song "Creep", written about a predator on public transport. "Creep on the train, I really want to smash your head in," drawls frontwoman Clottie Cream. "Right in. Right in. Right in." But they also aim higher on "Burn the Stake", which hits out at the Conservative government and their bigoted coalition partners the Democratic Unionist Party. "Build a bonfire, build a bonfire, put the Tories on the top," sings Clottie. "Put the DUP in the middle and we'll burn the fucking lot." Yet the Tories themselves continued to rain down blows, not only on Syria in their allied April 8 bombing with the US and France, but also on the lone political voice opposing the illegal raid, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. For doing so, he was pilloried in the press from Britain to Australia, where the Sydney Morning Herald said the approval of the UN Security Council should be dismissed in such situations. MORE>>>
9. THE TRIBUNES - CAN'T AFFORD TO LIVE
The elite's worldwide contempt for the law could be seen not only in Australia's royal banking commission this month, which revealed crime after crime, but also in the new album from Cornwall's The Tribunes, which rails against the bankers still escaping justice in Britain. As German fascists held a music festival to celebrate Hitler's birthday on April 20 and a German rap duo won an award for an anti-Semitic album, the Tribunes sang against the rise of fascism, racism and corruption in Europe as their singer tackled gender dysphoria head on by coming out as transgender. Also speaking up for minorities was their fellow Cornish artist Gwenno, whose new pop album, released a few weeks earlier, is sung entirely in Cornish, inspired by the government's decision to cut its already woeful funding for the Cornish language. "It’s like everything you do has to have monetary value," said the singer, who is the child of a Cornish poet and a jailed Welsh language activist. MORE>>>
10. MANIC STREET PREACHERS - RESISTANCE IS FUTILE
Also speaking up for the persecuted Welsh was harpist Sioned Williams, whose grandfather led the campaign against the submerging of a Welsh village to create a reservoir for the English. She commissioned classical work The Drowning Of Capel Celyn, which was premiered at the Wales International Harp Festival on April 2 as colonists in Brexit Britain continued to rail against being colonised. It can be found on the new album by its composer Michael Stimpson, paired with a composition about Dylan Thomas. Also reviving that legendary Welsh poet were Wales' favourite leftist rockers The Manic Street Preachers, whose new album released on April 13 contains the duet "Dylan & Caitlin". The album is surprisingly strong for a band in their fourth decade. Earworm "Vivian" is as catchy as any of their No.1 hits and they are as provocative as ever, laying down the bait for the Jeremy Corbyn-hating Guardian to headline their anti-Corbyn comments in an interview this month. 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.
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