10 new political albums to protest President Trump
By Mat Ward
1. RADIO DEPARTMENT - RUNNING OUT OF LOVE
At the start of the year, the US Democrats were blaming WikiLeaks - rather than their own neoliberal policies - for their election loss. As Sweden ramped up its efforts to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Swedish band Radio Department punctured the widely-held progressive political image of their country while promoting their new album. Asked about Donald Trump's election victory, they said: "We’re as surprised as anyone really. Having said that, maybe we weren’t that surprised because we’ve had the same thing in Sweden with the Swedish Democrats. We’re really scared about the Swedish Democrats winning the vote next time, in the same way Trump did. Maybe we’ll move to Scotland!" The album has been called "as political and confrontational as ever, taking swipes at the Swedish gun lobby, capitalism, the music industry and police brutality among others". MORE>>>
2. HARD VAPOUR RESISTANCE FRONT - WORLD WAR 2020 EPISODE FOUR: WIKILEAKS VS DNC
While some pointed out the irony of the US accusing other countries of interfering with its election, Ukraine-based electronica collective Hard Vapour released their latest compilation, themed around WikiLeaks and the Democrats. Given all the insanity of the election campaign, it's no surprise that the samples raise a few laughs, as Trump's rival Hillary Clinton and outgoing US president Barack Obama are mocked even more than Trump (Obama attracts flies and Clinton actually "smells of sulphur" don't you know?) "We were engaged in conflicts for every single day of Obama's presidency and these battles took place in 11 different nations in all," say the collective. "Obama's reign was hardly a time of 'peace'. Government surveillance of citizens reached an all-time high." Although the title suggests the collective expect world war in three years, scientists were less hopeful on January 26, when they moved the official Doomsday Clock 30 seconds closer to midnight. LISTEN>>>
3. VARIOUS ARTISTS - WAR ON THE WORKERS A TRIBUTE TO ANNE FEENEY
Obama commuted the sentence of one US whistleblower he'd allowed to be tortured, Chelsea Manning, on January 17. But there was no pardon for Assange, who allegedly published the information Manning leaked. One song Manning and Assange would both relate to is "Have You Been to Jail for Justice?", which is found on a new fundraising tribute album for storied US protest singer Anne Feeney, who has cancer. The album, War On The Workers, was released days after Trump betrayed his rust belt voters by handing the Labor Secretary post to fast food boss Andy Puzder, a "sworn foe" of the minimum wage who sells burgers via women in bikinis. "I like beautiful women eating burgers in bikinis," he says. "I think it's very American." As the album's title track puts it: "Listen up, we've got a war zone here today. Right in our heartland, and across the USA. These multinational bastards don't use tanks and guns it's true. But they've declared a war on us, fight back! It's up to you." LISTEN>>>
4. ANTI-FLAG - LIVE VOL 1
Trump "is a con man, and they got taken", say one of the bands to appear on the War On The Workers album, Anti-Flag. "A lot of the people he's bringing in are diametrically opposed to workers' rights, and of course that's a disaster for poor and working people." As Anti-Flag put out a new live compilation this month, singer Justin Sane noted the changing mood at their gigs. "Night after night people are telling me, 'I came here tonight because I wanted to be around some people who are concerned about the direction of the country.' They want to know that they're going to be in a place where there was going to be some support and solace for the kinds of things that they're feeling right now." Kicking off an Australian tour, Bruce Springsteen swore solidarity with anti-Trump protesters, saying "we are part of the new resistance", but it wasn't all doom and gloom. What many would see as a silver lining came when U2 announced they were delaying their new album due to Trump's election. MORE>>>
5. LAUREN MAYER - GUESS I PICKED THE WRONG WEEK TO STOP SNIFFING GLUE...
Also shunning the doom and gloom was US artist Lauren Mayer, whose albums always raise genuine laughs. On her new album's title track she sings of Trump's election: "If we can laugh it'll help us pull through, although I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue. No, I'm not advocating substance abuse, just cracking a joke, although I quit the wrong week to quit snorting coke. Just kidding. Sorta." And skewering the racism whipped up by Trump, she blasts: "We are mostly all immigrants, you shmucks, except for Native Americans, who have good reason to be really pissed. Stop insulting our neighbours like uneducated clucks, 'cause we are mostly all immigrants, you shmucks. Immigrants have come here in search of better lives, or escaping wars and horrors they've been through. And as is clearly proven by a couple of Trump's wives, immigrants do jobs the rest of us won't do." MORE>>>
6. NO MANS RECORDS - FOLK THE BORDER
Not that Trump was listening, of course. Just a week after taking office, he started refusing Muslims entry - and re-entry - to the US, sparking protests at airports nationwide and condemnation from politicians worldwide... except in Australia, where he was praised for keeping an election promise and "catching up with Australia". Trump didn't listen to his critics any more than he would listen to Folk The Border, this critical compilation of border-bashing, anti-racist musicians. The Muslim ban came after he was widely ridiculed for the size of his inauguration after failing to secure any decent performers, including Rebecca Ferguson, who agreed to perform only if she could sing anti-slavery anthem "Strange Fruit". The event was upstaged by a gig across town featuring innovative local activist band Priests, whose new album came out on January 27. Artist Fiona Apple, knowing Trump's obsession with size, also hit him where it hurts with her mocking track "Tiny Hands". LISTEN>>>
7. KATE MILLER-HEIDKE - THE BEST OF KATE MILLER-HEIDKE: ACT ONE
Trump's teeny weenie inauguration was upstaged further by "the biggest protest in US history", the Women's March, which stretched as far as Antarctica. It came after a photo went viral of him surrounded by men and signing anti-abortion legislation, making the US as backward as, say, Australia. Performers at the march included the Indigo Girls, Janelle Monae and MC Lyte, but the most fitting soundtrack was released weeks earlier by operatic Australian pop star Kate Miller-Heidke. The only new track on her best-of compilation, "You've Underestimated Me, Dude", is a feminist slapdown that could have almost been the march's motto. Madonna, a dab hand at feminist slapdowns, joined in the protests, yelling expletives and declaring that she'd thought about "blowing up the White House". But the newly presidential Trump wasn't about to stoop so low as to take the bait from a fading pop star. Oh hang on, no, he did, going on TV to issue the withering intellectual response that Madonna was "disgusting". MORE>>>
8. BRIAN ENO - REFLECTION
Ever one to look optimistically towards the future, avant-garde experimentalist Brian Eno was upbeat about politics as he released his latest album. "2016 was indeed a pretty rough year," he posted to Facebook on January 2. "But I wonder if it's the end - not the beginning - of a long decline... Inequality eats away at the heart of a society, breeding disdain, resentment, envy, suspicion, bullying, arrogance and callousness. If we want any decent kind of future we have to push away from that, and I think we’re starting to." By the end of the month, he felt the need to clarify that Trump was a "complete disaster". But his album was also forward-thinking, released as a groundbreaking, ever-changing app. "Our grandchildren will look at us in wonder and say: 'You mean you used to listen to exactly the same thing over and over again?’" However, judging by the early comments on iTunes, some clearly thought he was being too optimistic with its US$40 ($53) asking price. MORE>>>
9. AUSTRA - FUTURE POLITICS
Also choosing to focus on utopian hopes rather than dystopian despair were Canadian dreampop denizens Austra, with their new album, Future Politics. "What I'm saying when I say 'future politics’ is imagining the world and organising society in a long-form way," says singer Katie Stelmanis. “One of the first inspirations I had for the record was the band Massive Attack. I saw them by accident; we played a festival with them and their shows are pretty overtly political. They have all these newspaper headlines in the background throughout the whole thing. There’s just something about receiving that information while listening to beautiful music that it makes it easier to want to relate, or want to understand.” It certainly seemed to work with the mainstream music press, who lavished praise on the album for pushing positivity over protest. Make of that what you will. MORE>>>
10. RAVANA - NAXALITE
In Austra's home country, pipeline-loving Canadians spilled 200,000 litres of oil into an aboriginal community on January 20. Two days later, the oil-loving Trump ordered the Dakota Access Pipeline - stopped by Native American protesters last year - to forge ahead. The actions came days after the release of the new album by Delhi-based electronic producer Ravana, which is dedicated to Naxalites, the indigenous resistance in his own country. In the liner notes, he says: "In this deliberately created vacuum, the chief ministers of the states have merrily administered their reserve forests by leasing forests for mining to private companies, evicting the tribals living in these forests for millennia." Its release followed the Lathi Charge EP from Napali thrash metallers Chepang, whose "name is taken from the lowest caste in their native country, a formerly nomadic people who have been neglected and derided by their people and government". The lathi is the truncheon carried by police. LISTEN>>>
BONUS: INDIJ HIP-HOP SHOW - SURVIVAL DAY SPECIAL
Back in Australia, Indigenous resistance against genocide raged on as the First Fleet's arrival on January 26, 1788, was celebrated as national holiday Australia Day for the 23rd year. The tide may be turning. Popular national youth broadcaster Triple J tied itself in knots over whether to stop playing its yearly top 100 countdown on the day. Sydney-raised Sikh rapper L-FRESH THE LION stopped his Australia Day concert after only one song to instead play protest tracks by Aboriginal artists so fans could listen to what they have to say. A bunch of well-known Indigenous and non-indigenous hip-hop artists banded together to record the song "Change The Date". But if you listen to nothing else, make sure you hear the two-part "Survival Day" special run by the thought-provoking Indij Hip-Hop Show. Always two steps ahead in any debate, hosts Frank and Ren suggested that Australian society needed to completely change before the token changing of any date. LISTEN>>>
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mat Ward is an Australian-based journalist who has been writing for Green Left Weekly since 2009. This month, he released an album about inequality three days after Oxfam revealed that just eight men now own the same wealth as the poorest half of the planet. Listen to it here.
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.