10 powerful new albums to supercharge activists
By Mat Ward
1. BOBBY SESSIONS - RVLTN (CHAPTER 1): THE DIVIDED STATES OF AMERIKKKA
On July 1, Mexico elected leftist politician Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in a landslide. The new president, widely known as AMLO, shared a "respectful" post-victory phone call with US President Donald Trump. Yet two days later it was revealed that Trump was seeking to destabilise the region by repeatedly pressing aides to invade Venezuela. As attacks intensified on leftists in neighbouring Colombia, Brazil and Ecuador, US-based Ecuadorian musician and activist Riobamba limbered up for a gig with a call to abolish prisons in Trump's America, which disproportionately jail African-Americans. On July 20, US rapper Bobby Sessions called on them to break their chains on his uncompromising new album, RVLTN (Chapter 1): The Divided States Of AmeriKKKa. "It's been almost 500 years and we're still not free," said the emcee, whose cousin was shot dead by police in 2012. "People are dying and it's not a message that should be sugar coated." MORE>>>
2. FORTUNATE FALL - THE BLACK PARTY
On July 18, an event in Melbourne highlighted the staggering amount of government spending on prisons compared with public housing for the vulnerable. Titled "Homes Not Prisons", it noted that the government will spend almost $700 million to build a new 700-bed maximum security prison at Lara — nearly $1 million per prisoner. A week earlier, students occupied three sites in Melbourne to highlight corporate, government and university complicity in the cycle of war, climate destruction and abuse of refugees held indefinitely in detention, noting that "over 137 children are imprisoned on Nauru". Striking the same chord was the new album from LA anarcho-metal band Fortunate Fall, whose song "Wealth In Chains" roars: "Another profit system, oppression in design, victimize populations, school to prison pipeline... Incarcerate the wealthy class that built these walls upon our backs. Incarcerate the wealthy class that built these walls to make some cash." LISTEN>>>
3. AGF - DISSIDENTOVA
On July 15, protest punks Pussy Riot invaded the pitch during the soccer World Cup final in Russia to highlight the plight of political prisoners in the country. They followed the action, which landed them in jail for 15 days, with a string of new protest music videos. Also released during the World Cup was the new album by German electronic experimentalist AGF, which features feminist poetry from radical Russians including Pussy Riot's Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, who wrote the words while serving two years in jail for her protests with the band. "The Pussy Riot trial was a watershed moment in Russia," say the liner notes, "as it exposed the exploitative nature of the Russian justice system and the willingness of the authorities to punish protesters severely." AGF, who made her album on an island in Finland, also appears on the new compilation Karl Marx's 200th!, released to celebrate the 200th birthday of Karl Marx. Fittingly, a lot of the songs entirely reimagine what music can be. LISTEN>>>
4. THE COUP - SORRY TO BOTHER YOU: THE SOUNDTRACK
Highlighting the wage slavery that's only one step up from prison work was Sorry To Bother You, the new film from Boots Riley, who also put together the loose funk boom clap soundtrack with his radical US rap group The Coup. In the film, a corporation "hires" employees who surrender their freedom to live and work in prisons and Black telemarketers make themselves sound white. Promoting it, Riley riffed on the manufactured constructions of race: "Always, racist tropes about people of colour are ones that are used to keep the white working class from siding with other people in the working class and looking more toward ideas that the ruling class has as being of their own, which explains poor white people siding with Trump. The racist ideas have a utility. That's the reason why they exist. They have a utility under this system, and that utility allows a large group of working-class folks to feel more allied with rich white people than poor people of other ethnicities." MORE>>>
5. ADOLESCENTS - CROPDUSTER
It's well known that long-suffering flight attendants get their revenge on passengers by farting as they walk down the aisles in a practice known as "cropdusting". Veteran punks The Adolescents take that term and run with it on their new album, Cropduster, whose cover features Trump trumping as he saunters past disgusted onlookers. But days before its release, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants cropdusted Trump with a strong statement about his US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. "We oppose the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh," said the association's president Lori Bassani. "His demonstrated opposition to the rights of workers and unions, as well as his stance against women's rights and marriage equality, make him unsuitable for the highest court of our nation." It came as Spirit, Alaska Airlines and United Airlines started working with unions to end the harassment of flight attendants, who suffer it far more than workers in other professions. MORE>>>
6. OTEP - KULT 45
Also slaying sexual harassers was Otep Shamaya with her eponymous band, whose headkicking new album, released on July 27, is stupendously strong. Lightweight pop star P!nk may have kicked off this month with an arena tour of Australia, but her dark doppelganger Otep ended it with so much more. On the song "Trigger Warning", she takes the alert that appears before material of a distressing nature and turns it on Stanford rapist Brock Turner and all other attackers, growling out the words: "We are the many, they are the few. Our battle? #MeToo. You hear that click, you son of a bitch?! TRIGGER WARNING! TRIGGER WARNING!" The subjects on the album are as wide-ranging as the tight, dynamic music. "Musically, we explore different genres — we're trying to reach everyone," she said. "I don't want to be limited to one genre or to be anchored to a particular space where I can only reach certain political minds." That said, the song "Halt-Right" won't win many alt-right listeners. MORE>>>
7. VIOLATION WOUND - CLITERATI / VIOLATION WOUND
Also mocking the alt-right were Portland queercore metalpunks Cliterati, with their new track "Alt-Wrong". "I'll wipe my ass with your Confederate flag," blasts the song. "Won’t be no cross burning here tonight. We’ll fuck you up. Stand and fight!" It's found on their new split album with Oakland punks Violation Wound, released on July 27, just four days after more than 1000 protesters rallied in Oakland to #SayHerName — repurposing the slogan used to draw attention to the Black female victims of racist police violence - after teenager Nia Wilson was slashed to death by a racist killer. "If you walk away with just one message from this split, hopefully it’s that we are all in this together," said Cliterati's Ami Lawless. "Queer, straight, POC or white, things can and will change when we join forces and tear down the system of hate and oppression." LISTEN>>>
8. THE INTERRUPTERS - FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT
Heeding that call were LA ska-punks The Interrupters, who kick off their new album, Fight The Good Fight, with the words: "Fight like a title holder, stand like a champion, live like a warrior and never let 'em break you down." Similar sentiment can be found on Take A Stand, the new album from Canadian bass and breakbeats maestro Stickybuds. Saying he's "trying to make music that’s not totally disposable", Stickybuds describes album highlight "The Firestarter", which is "about profiting off war and the corruption behind it", as "full-on drum and bass". "You can play that at peak time in the club," he said. "But the message is still there too." Enlightening a similar audience are Britain's Ed Solo, who made possibly the best drum and bass record ever in Jungle Owes Me Money, and Darrison, who emceed probably the best drum and bass mix ever in The Red Mix. They've collaborated on new album Don't Stop, which tackles racist police in the defiant "Don't Harass Me". MORE>>>
9. KELLY AND WOOLLEY - MINER'S EYES
As renewable energy sources hit a record 30% market share in Darrison and Ed Solo's Britain, a couple of artists from the other end of the musical spectrum examined the country's dying coal industry. On their new album Miner's Eyes, folk musicians Kelly and Woolley gently sing: "The coal's no more and the mines are gone, so boats don't come to pay someone... The coal exchange stands empty now, I look to sea and I'm wondering how, a million tons were traded on this floor - kept a few men rich and many poor." The album was released as satellite images showed Britain's heatwave had scorched the country from green to brown, temperature records were broken all over the world and Greenland villagers were evacuated as an iceberg bore down on them, threatening huge waves as it calved. Meanwhile Australia's government continued to prop up the doomed coal industry as protests raged around the country against the colossal, subsidised Adani mine and Citibank's tar sands pipeline funding. MORE>>>
10. ALBOROSIE - UNBREAKABLE: ALBOROSIE MEETS THE WAILERS UNITED
As Britain intensified its messy break-up with Europe, Trump was greeted in the country by huge protests and a giant floating Trump baby on July 13. Yet in Fortress Europe, Trump-emboldened racists continued their rise to power as Italy's far-right leaders raised the spectre of Mussolini. Breaking that Italian stereotype was unlikely reggae star Alborosie, whose new album was made with none other than Bob Marley's legendary backing band, The Wailers. On "Lie" the Sicilian multi-instrumentalist mocks the rising power of untruths, from government to police to social media, and "Contradiction" skewers "the social and political climate we are currently living in". Ironically, the Italian immigrant wasn't welcomed in Jamaica at first. "My early experience in Jamaica was... not nice," he said. "Borosie was a name they used to call me and it have a negative meaning. I'm not gonna tell you what borosie mean!" Because his real name is Albert, he added the "Al" to reclaim the insult. MORE>>>
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mat Ward has been writing for Green Left Weekly since 2009 and authored the book Real Talk: Aboriginal Rappers Talk About Their Music And Country. He also makes political music and released a new album about Elon Musk on July 31. Follow him on Spotify here.
Read about more political albums here.
Stream Green Left TV's political music playlist here.
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