10 new albums Donald Trump would NEVER play at one of his rallies
By Mat Ward
US presidential hopeful Donald Trump has made an art of offending musicians by using their music at his rallies. But here's this month's radical record round-up, featuring 10 he'd never play. (That said, since even Trump seems to have NO FUCKING IDEA what he'll do in the next five minutes, let's also say - just to be safe - he's likely to play all of them. Possibly tomorrow.) What album, or albums, would you suggest? Comment on Twitter or Facebook. Videos not playing? Try a bigger screen.
1. RAVANA - ANTI-NATIONALS
The month began with radical Indian musician Ravana celebrating his 40th birthday by releasing his third album this year. Anti-Nationals, a rallying cry against the Hindu chauvinism of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modhi, was released a fortnight before protests erupted in Kashmir against India's military aggression. The album features Asian Dub Foundation bassist Dr Das extolling the virtues of political music. Over a tabla beat, he says: "People say, 'Oh art, music it's nothing, it doesn't change anything.' I would disagree with that. With music, you can provide information about things, you can make some commentary, you can make criticism, or you can just be a pointer." Such music may or may not change the world, but it also serves another purpose. It can make activists feel "less alone", as Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello reminded people in an opinion piece this month. LISTEN>>>
2. THE SKA VENGERS - XX
Ravana is named after the chief antagonist in the epic Hindu poem Ramayana. But as his fellow radical Indian musicians The Ska Vengers pointed out this month, some of the greatest Indian poets, such as Tagore and Ambedkar, wouldn't be safe in today's Hindu fundamentalist India. "Ambedkar called Hinduism a 'chamber of horrors' and said the Vedas had no spiritual value," said frontman Taru Dalmia in promoting the ska band's highly political new album, also released on July 1. "Can you imagine anyone saying this today? People get killed for much less." A few days after its release, Awami Workers Party general secretary Farooq Tariq told the Asia-Europe People's Forum in Mongolia that such fundamentalism is not anti-imperialist, saying: "Religious fundamentalists are a new kind of fascists in the making." As The Ska Vengers' Dalmia puts it: "We are in a profoundly colonial situation." LISTEN>>>
3. THEO CROKER - ESCAPE VELOCITY
India's long-time geopolitical rival, China, is often criticised in the Western media for its crackdowns on musicians and lampooned for its nationalistic "propaganda" pop. Yet writing in Forbes this month, Beijing-based jazz musician Terence Hsieh said such "simple" coverage "highlights a double standard levelled against Chinese artists: that they are (or should be) eternally locked in a black-and-white struggle against the iron fist of the Communist Party, although this expectation doesn't exist for western artists". One Western artist who chose to live in China is acclaimed jazz trumpeter Theo Croker. On his latest album, the grandson of legendary trumpeter Doc Cheatham takes jazz back to its activist roots. The song "We Can't Breathe" references the last words spoken by Eric Garner before US cops killed him. The title of its upbeat follow-up, "It's Gonna Be Alright" riffs on the Kendrick Lamar rap anthem that was adopted by Black Lives Matter protesters in response. MORE>>>
4. JPEGMAFIA & FREAKY - THE 2ND AMENDMENT
The late satirical musician Frank Zappa once said: "Politics is the entertainment division of the military industrial complex." No artist today has grasped that concept better than piss-taking rapper JPEGMAFIA. On July 4, he released an album named after the right to bear arms that aims to be "the soundtrack for the presidential election". In the video for lead single "I Might Vote For Donald Trump", he and fellow Baltimore rapper Freaky cruise through a Trump-voting neighbourhood as rich white men watch from behind lace curtains with guns drawn. "The whole point of the song is like 'We might just vote for Donald Trump because it shouldn’t be legal to vote for him in the first place'," says JPEGMAFIA. "For somebody like me that talks about politics all the time, it would be too easy to just say 'Fuck Donald Trump'." Amid all Trump's race-baiting, cops were filmed killing Black men Alton Sterling and Philando Castile in the two days after the album's release. LISTEN>>>
5. NICE AS FUCK - NICE AS FUCK
At a July 12 Black Lives Matter rally against the deaths of Sterling and Castile, some protesters were practising their right to bear arms by openly carrying assault rifles. That added to the fear and confusion when a lone sniper began picking off police officers at the protest. Days later, cops were also killed in Baton Rouge in response to Sterling's death there. Cops, media and politicians went into overdrive highlighting the dangers of police work. Yet as rapper David Banner pointed out before the shootings, it's far more dangerous to be a farmer than a cop - which is perhaps why some are relaxed enough to play Pokemon Go on the job. The statistics back Banner up, and the same is true in Australia. Amid all the US terror, supergroup Nice As Fuck - touted as "objectively the best all female band in the last 25 years" - released their surprise debut album, which urges: "I don't wanna be afraid, put your guns away. Crisis is not ISIS. We're spilling our own blood." MORE>>>
6. THE JULIE RUIN - HIT RESET
ISIS is a crisis, however, for the Kurdish feminists fighting the terrorist group in Rojava. The Kurds faced further hell this month after Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan used a suspicious-looking failed coup to elicit an ever-more brutal crackdown. They are celebrated on a new fundraising compilation that features female-fronted post-punk bands because, as its compiler says, "all the greatest ones are female-fronted". ISIS kills far more Muslims than Westerners, but a far bigger killer worldwide is men's war on women. Articulating what it's like to live in the shadow of domestic violence is Riot Grrrl icon Kathleen Hanna, whose new album with The Julie Ruin opens with a song about her father. "Deer hooves hanging on the wall," she sings. "Shell casings in the closet hall. Drunk from a mug shaped like a breast... Slept with the lights on, on the floor, behind a chair that blocked the door. Walk of shame from bedroom to plate, stability just words of hate." LISTEN>>>
7. INFORMATION SOCIETY - ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE
A greater existential threat to all of humanity than ISIS or men's war on women is, of course, Donald Trump. Raising the spectre of his finger hovering over the nuclear button is about the only thing that seems to be working for Hillary Clinton and her reluctant supporters, despite the fact that the US nuclear arsenal has grown under "anti-nuclear" Democratic president Barack Obama. It's a rare mainstream affirmation for academic Noam Chomsky, who often seems like a lone voice in trying to alert people to the ever-growing threat of nuclear war. Mass public hysteria over the issue collapsed with the end of the Cold War, an era that Information Society delve back into on their new album. On their cover of Heaven 17's 1981 hit "(We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang", they ominously sing over big beats: "History will repeat itself, crisis point we're near the hour." The original song was banned by the BBC for its referencing of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. LISTEN>>>
8. JEFF BECK - LOUD HAILER
It's safe to say "(We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang" is no favourite of Britain's new "ruthless" Prime Minister, Theresa May, the first woman to hold that post since Thatcher. Even London's right-wing Daily Telegraph mocked May this month for her "deeply uncool taste in music". Still, at least there's no danger she'll anger image-conscious indie bands by declaring her love for them, as her predecessor, David Cameron, was prone to do. Cameron's handover to May on July 13 was all the excuse the corporate media needed to slam Jeff Beck's first overtly political album, released two days later, as having "poor political timing" since it rails against Cameron. At 72, Beck was bored of appearing on "about 400" Guitar World magazine covers as one of the world's greatest players and decided to do something different. He hooked up with Bones frontwoman Rosie Bones, whose Billy Idol-esque southern sneer is a strong match for Beck. The guitar playing is, naturally, stupendous. MORE>>>
9. PETER GARRETT - A VERSION OF NOW
Boasting far more musical kudos than May or Cameron is Midnight Oil frontman Peter Garrett, who has put his controversial political career behind him to return to what he does best. On his effortlessly catchy debut solo album, released on July 15, Garrett is unrepentant about his time as a federal Labor minister, pointing to his list of achievements and singing "I'd Do It All Again". Former Greens leader Bob Brown famously said Garrett had "sold out". But Garrett recently retaliated: "I find it hard to see a single initiative that the Greens put forward or achieved in environment in over 10 years that I was in the parliament. I can't think of any. I'm happy to hear from somebody if they can." Brown is unlikely to level the same criticism at Indigenous country star and sometime Greens candidate Warren H Williams, who made history this month with his new album. Garrett, meanwhile, is still being dogged by controversy in his solo career. MORE>>>
10. SLYMOUSE SUPREME - DRENCH THE WORLD IN HONEY
An album Brown, Garrett and Williams would all approve of is the new offering from New Zealand post-rock artist Slymouse Supreme. It aims to alert the world to the crisis faced by bees, noting: "Ever since World War II, bees have been in steady decline due to drastic changes in our farming practices and the rise of pesticides." Three days after its July 14 release, Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates delivered the annual Nelson Mandela lecture in Johannesburg. Among other criticisms, activists pointed to Gates' support for Monsanto, a root cause of the ecological destruction threatening bees. Also backing the bees is Kel Valhaal on his new experimental offering. The philosophy-quoting frontman for "heady metal" band Liturgy recently wrote of the rise of political electronic music (which, sadly, includes Nazi acts), then delivered the goods with the worthy - and typically wordy - political album and book, New Introductory Lectures on the System of Transcendental Qabala. LISTEN>>>
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mat Ward is an Australian-based journalist who has been writing for Green Left Weekly since 2009. He also wrote the book Real Talk: Aboriginal Rappers Talk About Their Music And Country. To read it online, click here.
To read about more political albums, click here.
To stream Green Left TV's political music playlist, click here.
3CR radio's Global Intifada show is a great source of topical political music. To listen to it online, click here.