10 new political albums that will turn your world upside down
By Mat Ward
Here's a look back at this month's political news and the best 10 new albums that related to it (plus a few extra - count them). What albums would you suggest? Comment on Twitter, Facebook, or email. Videos not playing? Try a bigger screen.
1. MARGO PRICE - ALL AMERICAN MADE
At the start of the month, a professional gambler opened fire on a country music festival in Las Vegas, killing 58 people and injuring 546. One of the performers instantly renounced his support for guns. Johnny Cash's daughter, Rosanne Cash, called for others to follow suit. Shooting down that stereotype of country artists as right-wing gun nuts was Margo Price, who released what Rolling Stone called the "most political country album in years" on October 20, hitting out at sexism and gun-loving Republicans. On "Pay Gap" she sings: "No matter your denomination, we are all the same in the eyes of God, but in the eyes of rich white men, no more than a maid to be owned like a dog." Facing criticism for politicising country music, she shot back: "If we wanna keep celebrities and politicians separate, then we shouldn't elect a reality TV star as the president." On the album, she addresses the growing inequality President Donald Trump exploits, lamenting the loss of her family farm. MORE>>>
2. SNOTTY NOSE REZ KIDS - THE AVERAGE SAVAGE
Never mind losing your family farm, how about losing your whole country? Predictably, Trump threw his weight behind Columbus Day on October 9, which celebrates the theft of Native American land, as other parts of the country continued to turn against it. Two days later, he hailed Canada's Justin Trudeau as a "great Prime Minister" as indigenous rappers Snotty Nose Rez Kids from Trudeau's country begged to differ, hitting out at the continuing effects of disenfranchisement on songs such as "KKKanada". Likewise, US gangsta rap veteran Snoop Dogg rapped "this is still Amerikkka with three K's, believe that shit" on his new Trump-baiting album, Make America Crip Again. Explaining the title of the record, out on October 27, he said: "Certain people feel like we should make America 'great again’, but that time they’re referring to always takes me back to separation and segregation, so I’d rather Make America Crip Again." LISTEN>>>
3. SPINIFEX GUM - SPINIFEX GUM
Also hitting out at the loss of Indigenous land was the new album from Spinifex Gum, a collaboration between Indigenous all-girls choir Marliya and Melbourne jazz-ska band The Cat Empire. On October 1, they released lead single "Locked Up" to mark the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Youths in The Northern Territory, which was due to release its report at the end of September. The report never came, but four days later, the abused youth who sparked the Commission, Dylan Voller, was arrested at a peaceful protest. On October 27, as protests raged on against fracking and coal mining on Aboriginal land, Spinifex Gum's album was released, which samples the sounds of the mines. In telling its story, The Cat Empire's Felix Riebl described how he "went into the iron ore mines, and came face to face with aspects of Australia I'd never confronted at such close range: the intensity of its capitalism, its racism, but also the strength of Indigenous language and Law". MORE>>>
4. RIA HALL - RULES OF ENGAGEMENT
Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand showed how far ahead of Australia its indigenous politics are. On October 19, it was a Maori kingmaker, Winston Peters, who decided that the country's new Prime Minister would be a sometime amateur deejay, Jacinda "capitalism has failed" Ardern. Yet a week later, Maori musician Ria Hall reminded the world of her country's brutal past and present, on her new album, Rules Of Engagement. The title of the concept album, released a day before the first national day of commemoration of the New Zealand Wars, refers to the "rules of engagement" written by Henare Wiremu Taratoa for 1864's battle of Gate Pa. As Hall says: "We have to go back to move forward into the future, to understand who we are." On October 25, the National Party defeated by Ardern's Labour Party lost again, when Wellington's High Court ordered it to pay NZ$600,000 (A$535,000) to rapper Eminem for using a soundalike song in its 2014 election campaign that infringed his copyright. LISTEN>>>
5. ECCA VANDAL - ECCA VANDAL
Australia, which has rejected New Zealand's offer to take its refugees, continued its persecution of asylum seekers this month, resulting in another death on October 2, followed by a class action against Immigration Minister Peter Dutton. As Tamils, who are often turned back from Australia, protested against their persecution in Sri Lanka this month, Melbourne-based Tamil artist Ecca Vandal released her diverse and highly original debut album. One of the album's many highlights, "Price Of Living", is a protest song she wrote about Australia's mistreatment of refugees after seeing Eva Orner's 2016 documentary Chasing Asylum. "It was a massive thing for me," says the artist. The record, which clashes MIA-style raps up against future bass synths and hardcore punk screaming from some stellar guests, was preceded by single "Broke Days, Party Nights", memorably described as a "'fuck austerity' banger". MORE>>>
6. BELA FLECK & ABIGAIL WASHBURN - ECHO IN THE VALLEY
While the nation was kept distracted by refugees, politicians continued to push for the world's biggest coal mine to open next to the Great Barrier Reef. At a rally against the Commonwealth Bank's funding of fossil fuels on October 16, protester John Hayes said: "The Commonwealth Bank is damaging the air quality of my community, which is putting the health of my seven grandchildren at risk." The protest came as Grammy-winning US banjo players Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn released their new album. It includes the folk cover "Come On All You Coal Miners", which says: "Coal miner, won't you wake up, and open your eyes and see, what the dirty capitalist system is doing to you and me. They take your very life blood, they take our children's lives. They take fathers away from children, and husbands away from wives. I am a coal miner's wife, I'm sure l wish you well. Let's sink this capitalist system in the darkest pits of hell." MORE>>>
7. INFILTRATION - NUCLEAR STRIKE WARNING
As fossil fool Donald Trump continued to ignore North Korea's offer of peace should the US stop its nuclear persecution of the country, the Nobel Peace Prize was pointedly awarded to Australia's International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons on October 6. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull refused to congratulate the winners, presumably to avoid questions as to why his country was one of the few Western powers not to sign up to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. As the threat of nuclear war continued to open up on many more fronts than the original Cold War superpowers of the US and Russia, St Petersburg death metal supergroup Infiltration dropped their explosive nuclear-themed debut. A little less morbid was the new record from US anarchist wrestler Jeff Monson, who teamed up with Moscow-based group The Allen Dulles Band to release the political music video "Build A Wall", mocking Trump's yet-to-be-built border wall. LISTEN>>>
8. TRIO DA KALI AND KRONOS QUARTET - LADILIKAN
Trump continued his tiresome offensive on October 16 by offending US war widow Myeshia Johnson, whose husband had just been killed in Nigeria. The media ignored the broader question of what exactly US troops were doing in Africa, just as they did after an anti-Western backlash resulted in a huge bomb wiping out 327 people in Somalia on October 14. As the colonial invaders fuelled an Islamic resistance, Mali band Trio Da Kali promoted their new album, which addresses the persecution of musicians in their country by Islamic extremists. On the album's title track, "Ladilikan" – which translates as "words of advice" - they sing: “You can't pray on Friday then go out on Saturday and murder children.” Several songs on the record are inspired by American gospel singer and civil rights activist Mahalia Jackson, who was brought to their attention by their Californian collaborators Kronos Quartet. MORE>>>
9. SHAOLIN TEMPLE DEFENDERS - FREE YOUR SOUL
Mali's continuing colonists, the French, protested against their new president, Emmanuel Macron, on October 10, as French pop star Laetitia Sadier promoted her new album, which opens with the words "Power to the people!" "It's normal that we're getting screwed by the Theresa Mays and Trumps and Macrons and whomever you have in Australia," said the former Stereolab frontwoman as her Australian tour loomed. "What's not normal is we're not taking action." On October 20, Sadier's fellow French artists Shaolin Temple Defenders released their subversive new album, featuring the song "Panama Papers", just four days after Panama Papers journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed in Malta. Meanwhile in Australia, the kind of tax-dodging exposed by the Panama Papers continued to get a free pass on October 11, as the Australian Taxation Office praised the "majority" of companies who paid tax, even as billions went unpaid. MORE>>>
10. THE SELECTER - DAYLIGHT
In Theresa May's Britain, ska legends The Selecter put out a new album on October 2 skewering "the ill-advised Brexit referendum in the UK, the election of President Trump, the advent of the alt-right, the continuing war in the Middle East, Black Lives Matter movement, increasing homelessness - not necessarily in that order". It came just weeks after fellow British '70s survivor Gary Numan released a Trump-bashing global-warming concept album that shot straight to No.2. On October 13, feminist grunge survivors L7 resurfaced with a new film and single torpedoing Trump's Mar-A-Lago resort, which came just days after Eminem used the BET Awards on October 10 to pummel the president with a four-minute freestyle that needed no accompanying music. But, just in case you were forgetting it was Eminem, he also lavished praise on the US military, then appeared on P!nk's "political" pop album three days later, dissing a "whore". 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.
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