10 new political albums that will make you feel less alone
By Mat Ward
Does the state of the world leave you feeling exasperated? You're not alone, as shown by this month's radical round-up, which actually contains far more than 10 albums (count them). What albums would you suggest? Comment on Twitter, Facebook, or email. Videos not playing? Try a bigger screen.
1. ROGER WATERS - IS THIS THE LIFE WE REALLY WANT?
In the run-up to the 50th anniversary of Israel's occupation of Palestine on June 5, activists were campaigning to have British indie stars Radiohead cancel their looming gig in Israel. Among those activists was Pink Floyd's Roger Waters, who shot down Radiohead's claims that he'd failed to contact them before blasting them in public. His retort came days after the June 2 release of his first album in 25 years, which continues his long history of protest music - a back catalogue whose influence could be heard in new political albums this month from prog rockers Cinema and IT. On Waters' new album, which covers refugee rights, rendition and drone warfare, he snarls: "Picture a shithouse with no fucking drains. Picture a leader with no fucking brains." On June 19, Waters spoke at a screening of a new film about US-Israeli relations, hosted by journalist and film-maker John Pilger. MORE>>>
2. NOGA EREZ - OFF THE RADAR
It was an Israeli, however, who released some of the most innovative electronic music in the world with her debut album on June 2. Over rattling beats, Noga Erez raps about an alleged gang rape at a Tel Aviv nightclub: "Skinny, skinny cat in a dog's land." The daughter of parents who met in the military, she says she has been criticised for speaking out on political issues. Some activists on the opposite side of politics to her critics would argue she shouldn't be promoted at all. Others might argue that, in a month when an event was held in Sydney to combat the sexism against women in electronic music, any woman who can out-innovate sexist male artists should be hyped. Others still would say that's patronising. Her release came the same month as strong feminist albums from Doll Skin, Barb Wire Dolls and Bad Cop, Bad Cop. Yet as the Sydney festival noted, pointing out the gender of all-girl bands - or lumping them together, as was just done here - is little better than ignoring them. LISTEN>>>
3. LONELY BOYS - THE HUNTER
Amid all the global outrage against Radiohead's Israeli gig, Songhoy Blues released an acclaimed new album against persecution in Mali and Omar Souleyman put out new LP To Syria, With Love. Yet Australia's colonial persecution continued relatively unnoticed. On June 14, its Labor Party backed miners over traditional owners, days after Queensland's Labor Premier praised coal company Adani's approval of its own Great Barrier Reef-destroying mine. The divide between Australia's resource-grabbing white elite and its conservationist traditional owners is no starker than on the new album from the Lonely Boys and its standout single "The Hunter". The band are so under-resourced they can rarely meet up and have to rehearse verbally - "when I look at you, that's when you're going to do this". They hit the headlines this month for saying they'd never heard of US rock stars Queen Of The Stone Age, who've asked them to be their support band. To see why they were picked, just LISTEN>>>
4. FLOGGING MOLLY - LIFE IS GOOD
Britain's colonisation of its neighbour fell under the spotlight on June 8, when Prime Minister Theresa May scrambled to form a government with terrorist-sympathising homophobes the Democratic Unionist Party from the six counties of Ireland still claimed by Britain. The $1.6 billion deal contrasted sharply with Ireland's June 2 election of a Prime Minister who is the gay son of Indian immigrants. The same day, Irish punk stalwarts Flogging Molly released their new album, which rails against "hostile nations". On the protest-themed "Reptiles (We Woke Up)", they sing: "Like all godless children, the young bloods are bleeding to find their way. Let's not mess with their future, our past revolutions have somehow failed. For once in this life, let's just make these wrongs right and then seize the day. We woke up! And we won't fall back to sleep." Showing the huge appeal of such music worldwide, days later, Polish Celtic punks Paddy And The Rats released a riotous new album. LISTEN>>>
5. FUNKER VOGT - CODE OF CONDUCT
The near-win of British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in Britain's June 8 election caused the media to admit they were "wrong" about him - rather than admitting they'd been desperately trying to get rid of him. They included politics professor Matthew Goodwin, who went further than those eating humble pie by fulfilling his promise to eat his whole book, Brexit, live on air if he was wrong. Days later, German industrial band Funker Vogt released their new album, containing the appropriately titled song "Brexshit". And on "Der Letzte Tanz", they sang: "Oh boy, here's the story of it all. Empires rise, empires fall. And we just thought we knew it all. This is how empires fall." The same day, fellow Germans Tankard released their 17th album of beer-themed thrash metal, which included the song "Syrian Nightmare". It came as May lashed out at London's latest terror attack by putting Muslims on notice, but Corbyn called for an end to wars that fuel terror. MORE>>>
6. IT - WE'RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER
The contrast between May and Corbyn was underlined days later, when the "corporate manslaughter" of London's Grenfell Tower fire sparked starkly different reactions from the two leaders. Capturing that gulf between rich and poor is the critically acclaimed new album from London prog-rockers IT, which addresses the local "despair of those at the bottom of the ladder, although the sentiments expressed are equally applicable in a global context". On the tightly-played and powerful album, We're All In This Together, they urge: "Together, together, only we can change this fate." That same solidarity poured forth for Corbyn when he got a rock star's reception at Glastonbury Festival days later from the festival's "biggest crowd since the Rolling Stones". Snaring all of IT's power and politics - and way more publicity - were British-American rockers Algiers, whose new album was influenced by the dark mood around Brexit. LISTEN>>>
7. SKASE A.K. - SYNESTHESIA
Marketers say that to sell an unfamiliar product, you have to make it familiar. It's why Corbyn's been forced out of his sandals and into suits. It's why Tesla's fossil-fuel disrupting electric supercars look like generic family sedans. And it's why lesbian rapper Young M.A. raps about "niggas", "hoes", "rich bitches", "getting money" and "getting head" - winning her multi-platinum sales. Like Corbyn and Tesla, she may not be perfect, but she's slowly changing the masses. However, no such compromise can be heard on the well-produced sixth album from Sydney rap stalwart Skase AK, who spits that he's "probably the only rapper who doesn't want to get famous". On the album's opener, he name-checks Tesla CEO Elon Musk, but that's about as mainstream as he gets on "a 13 track explosion of colour and sound" about "climate change, foreign policy, banksters and the dumbing down of the music industry". Presciently, he also slams Cardinal George Pell, who was charged with sex offences on June 29. LISTEN>>>
8. ANI DIFRANCO - BINARY
Less marketable than Young M.A. in her sexuality is Ani DiFranco, whose quirky, radical new album shows she's still playing by her own rules and refusing to sell out. The same can't be said for megastar Katy Perry, who announced she was getting serious with a "super political" new album out this month, then released a record full of obtuse lyrics, straight-up love songs and ear-pleasingly polished pop. The media savaged her for the album and its cringe-worthy promotional gimmicks. But, like Young M.A., the "I Kissed A Girl" hit maker is at least reaching a huge audience and changing minds - even if her answer to US president Donald Trump is... Hillary Clinton. Days after its release, a straight-faced Murdoch columnist accused Green Left Weekly of turning the Queen into a queer-lover because the monarch had handed one of her birthday honours to a gay chief executive. In a homophobic world gone that mad, an artist like Katy Perry is a welcome voice of sanity. MORE>>>
9. RANCID - TROUBLE MAKER
On June 9, Rancid returned with a stonking new album and what must surely be the best beard in punk rock. On "Telegraph Avenue", they recall the beginnings of today's global neoliberal monster in the arrest of Berkeley protester Mario Savio under then-California governor Ronald Reagan: "Mario Savio gave a speech. It was him against the machine. For that he spent three months in jail. But he said he would do it again. Governor Reagan had enough. So the National Guard, they pushed on through. Tear gas and riot police, on Telegraph Avenue." The month also brought strong albums in Rancid's favoured genres of punk and reggae, all the way from US hardcore veterans Rise Against with Wolves to reggae champions Courtney John with Ecosystem and Isasha with Talk The Truth. Taking reggae a little further afield by mixing conscious lyrics with lilting jazz was Yolanda Brown with Love Politics War. LISTEN>>>
10. S.K.E.T. - CAPITALISM - CONTINUING CRISIS
Also tackling the global neoliberal monster head on are German industrial band S.K.E.T. with their seething new album, Capitalism - Continuing Crisis. Their first release in eight years, it arrived before German Chancellor Angela Merkel labelled Donald Trump and Theresa May unreliable partners on June 11, saying "we must fight for our own future on our own, for our destiny as Europeans". Yet Merkel offers no real alternative. On June 9, US southern rockers Gov't Mule released the radical album Revolution Come... Revolution Go, whose recording began the "dark day" Trump was elected president. LA-based Las Cafteras released an album of Latin resistance against the orange-skinned white supremacist. Portugal. The Man melded Civil Rights Era politics with mellifluous dream pop on Woodstock. US activist duo Lobo Marino released a long player of radical folk. And globetrotting electronic experimentalist Filastine raged against global wage slavery on new album Drapetomania. LISTEN>>>
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mat Ward is an Australian-based journalist who has been writing for Green Left Weekly since 2009. On June 29, the 10th anniversary of the iPhone, he released an album about Apple that he made entirely on an iPad.
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