10 new political albums the 1% don't want you to hear
By Mat Ward
Well, let's be honest, the 1% are probably too busy counting their money to give a fuck what anyone listens to. But here's this month's radical record round-up anyway, from death metal made by Aboriginal activists, to electronica made by drone hackers. It actually features more than 10 albums (try counting them). What album, or albums, would you suggest? Comment on Twitter or Facebook. Videos not playing? Try a bigger screen.
1. BENI BJAH - SURVIVOR
The month began with Rupert Murdoch's Daily Telegraph whipping white Australia into a frenzy with its years-old front page "news" that the University of NSW was suggesting students say Australia was "invaded", not "settled". West Australian Indigenous rapper Beni Bjah had already dropped a mixtape calling out the "Madness" of Murdoch. But just days later, he released his debut album Survivor, whose title track couldn't have been more timely, declaring: "They must have thought they seen aliens when them convict ships came sailing in. Crooks galore, criminal minds hit the shore. Guns go bang and them bodies hit the floor. Invaded, taken, raped, killed, enslaved, chained, oppressed, still, we're survivors." Like so many Aboriginal people responding to stolen land, the rapper chooses to take the moral high ground instead, calling for reconciliation rather than revenge. It no doubt helped him become the first Indigenous artist to win WAM's Song Of The Year, on April 10. LISTEN>>>
2. DISPOSSESSED - INSURGENCY
Over in Sydney a week later, Aboriginal rappers Provocalz and Felon opened the debut album launch for Indigenous death metal band Dispossessed, whose motto is "Invaded, not discovered." The rappers, who turn down many gigs and aren't given to compliments, told the audience of mostly anarchist activists that they were happy to be the support act for such a strong band. And Dispossessed are strong. Over dark slabs of guitar, they holler, "assimilation, taught to speak their words, no foundation, corrupted to the bone", then underline the point by singing in language. The album was released days after the biggest coral bleaching event yet on the Great Barrier Reef, adding poignancy to Dispossessed's words on "Black Panther": "Toxic water, salted earth, mountains are reduced to dirt. Conquest buried us alive, torture for the colonised." LISTEN>>>
3. SOLE AND DJ PAIN 1 - NIHILISMO
Any notion that the Australian Labor Party really gives a toss about Aboriginal rights or the environment sank without trace on April 3. In the middle of the Great Barrier Reef's biggest bleaching event on record, Queensland's Labor government approved the biggest threat to the Reef - Australia's largest coal mine, citing "jobs". That'd be the mine's several thousand jobs, as opposed to the Reef's tens of thousands. Compounding the tragedy, Queensland musician Felicity Burdett, who has released many sun-kissed songs, failed to reach her crowdfunding goal for a tribute album to the Reef and her recently deceased young children. Step up eco-emcee Sole, who raps on his latest flawless album, "Extinction event! Extinction event! I just wanna represent! Extinction event!" He also rhymes about the merits of staying self-funded and in artistic control - which would have resonated with activist and legendary musician Prince, who died just hours before the album's release. LISTEN>>>
4. ANOUSHKA SHANKAR - LAND OF GOLD
At the beginning of the month, Burkina Faso rapper Smockey performed in London as the inaugural winner of the Music in Exile Fund Fellowship. The award came after his studio was firebombed for his role in ending the 27-year rule of former President Blaise Compaoré. The same day, acclaimed sitarist Anoushka Shankar released an album dedicated to refugees fleeing persecution, just weeks before a further 500 drowned. The daughter of renowned sitarist Ravi Shankar and sister to hit jazz artist Norah Jones says supporting asylum seekers is "humanitarian" rather than political. Guesting on the album is Tamil rapper MIA, who recently released her own song "Borders" in support of refugees, followed by controversial comments that the #BlackLivesMatter movement had become acceptable, despite all the backlash against Beyonce's recent Super Bowl performance. Beyonce followed that up at the end of this month with the release of Lemonade, her most political album yet, which generated some cringeworthy celebrity reactions. MORE>>>
5. QELD - KUSH ZOMBIES
British anarchist rappers QELD reckon it's racism, rather than #BlackLivesMatter, that has become acceptable. On their debut album, they rap: "It ain't braces and boots, nowadays we got racists in suits, with immigration the scapegoat they use, for their bait and untrue daily abuse." The title of the album, Kush Zombies, alludes to their belief that like the walking dead, the masses will eventually rise up. The Queen, who celebrated her 90th birthday on April 21 complete with fawning coverage from the corporate media, is an unsurprising target. On "Nationalism" they rap in distinct Bristolian accents: "It ain't treason to say the Queen should die, son. I don't give a fuck if she was born out of the right cunt, from the right dick, the right shlong's sperm. That cow could die now as far as I'm concerned. There'll be bleeding hearts and weeping on, when there's people her age who can't afford to keep their heating on." LISTEN>>>
6. MUDDY SUMMERS AND THE DIRTY FIELD WHORES - SEEING RED (AND BLACK)
Also no fans of the Queen are fellow British anarchists Muddy Summers And The Dirty Field Whores, whose song "3pm" was released to mark the mouldy old monarch's 90th. On it, the "all grrl" band sing over unusually calm and soothing folk-punk: "Every Christmas day at three, they wheel the old bird out, sit her by a lit-up tree, so she can spout, about how horrible her anus is, or something like, while I sit there imagining her head upon a spike. Sat there in her diamonds, while her subjects starve. Witters about Christianity, oh what a laugh. This year she will celebrate her 90th birthday, soon there'll be another vile display. Union flags everywhere and foaming patriots. I hereby duly crown her 'Queen Of The Bigots'." It sits alongside 11 other equally entertaining songs on their new album, including "Between Your Legs", which advises: "We don't need more ladies in powerful positions. That shit needs dismantling if equality's your mission." LISTEN>>>
7. DAVID ROVICS - LETTER TO MY LANDLORD
US protest singer David Rovics is no fan of putting ladies in powerful positions just because they are women, as he points out on his new live album, which doubles as a history lesson. On "If Clinton's A Progressive", he sings: "It's election time again and the battle's pretty tight. On the left is Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump is on the right. On the Democratic ticket there's a struggle for the base. And Hillary is showing her most progressive face. She says we know she's an outsider because she's female. But if Clinton's a progressive then I'm a killer whale." Some have pointed out that Trump is in some ways more progressive than Clinton, but Rovics doesn't spare him, skewering his absurdity on "God's Gift to the Caliphate": "For jihadi recruiters his campaign is heaven-sent. It's a war between religions, a civilizational fight. That’s what Daesh says – and Donald Trump says, 'That’s right. All you Muslims stay out of here – just go join Islamic State.' He’s God’s gift to the Caliphate." LISTEN>>>
8. SURGICAL METH MACHINE - SURGICAL METH MACHINE
Also taking aim at Trump is long-outspoken Ministry frontman Al Jourgensen, who laid into him this month while promoting his new album - and band name - Surgical Meth Machine. "This guy is a fucking idiot," he said. "This guy is a billionaire, but it started with daddy’s money. Anybody with money can turn that money into more money. His entrepreneurship consists of all egocentric products like the Trump board game, Trump cologne, Trump sheets or whatever. I think Tony Montana in Scarface said it best when he said, 'This world is a great big pussy waiting to get fucked. Someday I’m gonna have my name on chicks’ asses.' That’s kind of like Trump’s goal - voting for Trump is kind of like voting for Tony Montana." More musicians taunted Trump at California's Coachella festival this month, kicked off by gangsta rappers YG and Nipsey Hussle with their unambiguous song "Fuck Donald Trump" and crowned by inimitable musician Grimes, who unfurled a banner of Bernie Sanders during her set. MORE>>>
9. JS AURELIUS - GOOFIN' DRONES
Grimes's groundbreaking album last year was more innovative than anything made by a male producer. Yet she revealed this month that numerous male producers have been arrogant and stupid enough to demand sex, just so they'll work with her. This year's most innovative political album so far, however, goes to a male producer. JS Aurelius has taken the software that hackers use to bring down pilotless aircraft in a practice known as "spoofing drones" and used it to make an album called Goofin' Drones. The results are eerily evocative - clean, clinical, mechanical whines followed by hellish explosions of white noise. If nothing else, it should alert a wider audience to the fact that there is a way to fight back against Barack Obama's seemingly unstoppable drone wars, which have also killed an Australian, it was revealed this month. LISTEN>>>
10. PJ HARVEY - THE HOPE SIX DEMOLITION PROJECT
One musician who has witnessed first-hand the devastating effects of those drone wars is PJ Harvey, who tells of her travels through Afghanistan on her new album. On "Ministry Of Defence", she sings: "This is the Ministry Of Defence. Stairs and walls are all that's left. Mortar holes let through the air. Kids do the same thing everywhere. They've sprayed graffiti in Arabic. And balanced sticks in human shit. This is the Ministry Of Remains. Fizzy drinks cans and magazines. Broken glass, a white jawbone. Syringes, razors, a plastic spoon. Human hair, a kitchen knife. And a ghost of a girl who runs and hides. Scratched in the wall in biro pen. This is how the world will end." The album, for which she also travelled to a decaying Washington DC via war-torn Kosovo with film-maker Seamus Murphy in tow, has been called more like journalistic reportage than straight protest music. MORE>>>
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. 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.