The 10 new political albums you've got to hear
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. VARIOUS ARTISTS - NIMA PRESENTS THE SOUND OF INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIA, NOW & BEFORE
The month began with West Australian police celebrating National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee week by wearing NAIDOC badges as they continued to jail Aboriginal people at eight times the rate Black South Africans were jailed under apartheid. The same police force then tweeted a photo of themselves breathalysing an Aboriginal toddler, as Australia's multibillion-dollar national airline Qantas celebrated NAIDOC by asking an Aboriginal artist to work for free. Australia's PM, Malcolm Turnbull, expressed outrage at a white Australian woman being killed by a black policeman in the US, but not before Turnbull brought in shoot-to kill policies in Australia while ignoring another Aboriginal man being killed in Australian custody. On July 7, the National Indigenous Music Awards hit back with an album opened by "January 26", AB Original's call to change the date of Australia Day, just as one Victorian council was threatened for trying to do so. MORE>>>
2. DJARMBI SUPREME - DEATH BY LO-FI
Teaming up with AB Original on "January 26" was "The Black Elvis", Dan Sultan, who also put out an acclaimed new album this month, which opens with the protest song "Drover". But if you like things a little more leftfield, check out this month's new mixtape from visual artist and self-styled lo-fi rapper Djarmbi Supreme. "Everything I do is culture, everything I am is political," he spits on an album made entirely on his phone. The self-made beats are as original as his raps, which somehow manage to raise laughs as he continues to work through his issues with his dead dad, who passed away at the exact life expectancy of Aboriginal men - 11 years younger than non-Aboriginal men. Hammering that sad statistic home was the death of multi-platinum selling Indigenous superstar - and AB Original collaborator - Dr G Yunupingu, who died at the age of just 47 in an Aboriginal homeless camp in Darwin on July 25. LISTEN>>>
3. VARIOUS ARTISTS - DEADLY HEARTS
While rocking a new "Black Flag" T-shirt designed by Djarmbi Supreme, AB Original used their Splendour In The Grass Festival appearance to slam the seven-month sentence given to a white West Australian man on July 21 for killing Aboriginal boy Elijah Doughty, sparking protests nationwide. AB Original's latest video tackles police brutality, while on "Black Lives Matter", AB Original's Bad Apples label-mate Birdz lists a litany of cases like Elijah's. It's found on the NIMA compilation, but Birdz also crops up on Deadly Hearts, a collection of highly original remakes of Aboriginal classics. It was showcased in a NAIDOC special of the Indigenous Hip Hop show, broadcast just before scientists determined Aboriginal people had been in Australia at least 65,000 years. The album opens with an innovative take on Warumpi Band's "My Island Home" by rapper Jimblah and travels from rock to future bass on its way to Yirrmala's cover of Warumpi Band's' "Blackfella Whitefella". MORE>>>
4. PHIL MONSOUR - ONE SONG ONE UNION
Also covering "Blackfella Whitefella" is Brisbane-based activist Phil Monsour on his spiky new punk album, which is mostly made up of union protest anthems calling for a similar unity. It came as Electrical Trades Union workers promised "the mother of all battles" against job cuts by their billionaire ex-politician bosses at Melbourne Crown Casino. In Sydney, bus drivers battled privatisation, while on the other side of the world, British firefighters fought back against life-threatening job cuts. In Argentina, workers occupied the factory of PepsiCo, whose retaliation was unsurprisingly at odds with their recently ridiculed advertising campaign that showed protesters bonding with police over a shared Pepsi. On July 17, a Sydney exhibition was opened to mark 100 years since Australia's great strike, calling for today's unionists to take inspiration from the past. LISTEN>>>
5. JASON ISBELL AND THE 400 UNIT - THE NASHVILLE SOUND
Doomed workers also feature in "Cumberland Gap" on the new country album from ex-Drive By Trucker Jason Isbell. "There is so much rhetoric from our representatives about coal country and it's obvious that those jobs aren’t coming back," he says of the song. "If you retrain people in those areas, it’s going to take a lot of time and infrastructure, which doesn’t seem to be of interest to the politicians." On July 5, rage against fossil fuel-addicted politicians erupted in days of protests at the G20, just before scientists warned a sixth mass extinction event was under way and a trillion-tonne iceberg broke off Antarctica. On July 27, Australia's infantile Treasurer Scott Morrison - recently seen brandishing a lump of coal in Parliament to promote the coal industry - mocked South Australia's deal to build the world's biggest renewable energy battery by comparing it to New South Wales's "Big Banana". Less jovially, his colleagues slammed anti-fracking activists as "cockroaches". MORE>>>
6. PUBLIC SERVICE BROADCASTING - EVERY VALLEY
Embattled coal miners are also the theme of the new album from London indie electronica experimentalists Public Service Broadcasting. The band, who usually take their samples from film archives, instead journeyed to Wales to interview first-hand the striking miners who fought Margaret Thatcher. The result is an immersive album featuring illuminating stories and stellar guests. They include The Manic Street Preachers' James Dean Bradfield, whose explosive voice cuts through the music like gelignite through rock. It came as Australia approved much-protested coal mines in Kevin’s Corner and the food bowl of the Liverpool Plains, while protests raged on against the Great Barrier Reef-destroying Adani coal mine. Over in the US, where President Donald Trump is at least more honest than his G20 cohorts about his commitment to fossil fuels, Texas punk music institution Institute released their new album Subordination, featuring the bile-belching "Oil Money". MORE>>>
7. THE TANGENT - THE SLOW RUST OF FORGOTTEN MACHINERY
As climate change and war pushed ever more refugees towards Europe, it in effect shut its doors on July 7, days after condemnation from Amnesty. A fortnight later, British political prog rockers The Tangent hit out at such disunity on their new album, which features fleeing refugees on its artwork. Over mind-boggling musicianship and epic songs - one is 22 minutes long - they dismantle the rising fascism in Europe. The album is all about "division", says singer Andy Tillison. On the 17-minute "A Few Steps Down The Wrong Road", he reflects on Brexiteers in a diminished British empire: "Although life continued for the country, its people would sometimes wistfully look back on the time when their forefathers controlled and developed large parts of the world. Give us empire! Give us what our fathers fought for! Give us money! Give us power! Give us greed!" The album has angered some who think there's no place for politics in prog-rock, but Tillison is unapologetic. MORE>>>
8. THE YALLA YALLAS - MEDUSA
Similar calls for unity are on the new LP from The Tangent's fellow Yorkshiremen, Leeds punks The Yalla Yallas. "You can't switch on the news without getting angry," says singer Rob Galloway. "As a songwriter, you find it hard to ignore." On "Asylum", he sings: "They say lock your windows, they say lock your doors, be scared of everybody, be scared of everyone. Well I don’t read their lies, Daily Mail, I despise, Theresa May and Donald Trump, the time has come to, eclipse The Sun. I think it's happening, in fact I’m pretty sure, I think the lunatics have taken over the asylum." On "Co-Exist", he hollers: "It can only get better, cos it can’t get any worse than this, we need to stand together, we need to co-exist to survive or everybody dies." And on "Sound Of The Kraken", he sings: "I believe in equality, I believe in women’s rights, I believe in LGBT, I believe in the anarcho-scene. I believe in the NHS, I believe in community, I wanna stamp on all the fascists in society." LISTEN>>>
9. DECLAN MCKENNA - WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE CAR?
Taking the politics of The Yalla Yallas to a far wider audience is 18-year-old polished pop prodigy Declan McKenna, Britain's "voice of a generation", whose debut album came out on July 21. The record, released days after Brazil's corrupt government announced it was jailing popular former president Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva, quickly segues into "Brazil", the song about FIFA corruption that propelled McKenna to the masses in 2015. Released just days before Trump announced he was banning transgender people from the military, the album also tackles the suicide of a transgender teen. It would normally be unusual to see such politics in pop, but even the pro-establishment "Sir" Mick Jagger released two surprise political songs at the end of the month. In the US, patriotic popster Lana Del Ray also announced she'd no longer be flying the US flag as she released her new album, featuring the Trump-baiting song "God Bless America - And All The Women In it". MORE>>>
10. SHEER MAG - NEED TO FEEL YOUR LOVE
Empowering women and queers in a more radical way was Tina Halladay, frontwoman for US rockers Sheer Mag, whose new album came out on July 21. On "Suffer Me" she sings: "The streets outside were stained at the Stonewall on June 28th... By the time the dawn had broke, the city coughed and slowly woke, and there was one less boot, pressing down on one less throat." On "Expect The Bayonet" she warns: "From the sorrow we created, a fragile state of blood and whim, made for rich men in their white skin, and people bolder than I, stood up to the lie that equality has left behind... if you don't give us the ballot, expect the bayonet." And on "Meet Me In The Street" she crows: "Seven blocks north of the avenue, we’re throwing rocks at the boys in blue, silver spoon suckers headed for a fall, and justice for all." Sheer Mag are constantly compared to Seventies legends Thin Lizzy, but those too young to remember will just know they're the best hard rock boogie to hit their ears. LISTEN>>>
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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