Here's a look back at August's political news and the best new music that related to it. You can also listen to a podcast of this column, including an 11-year-old schoolkid giving his verdict on all the albums, here.
1. SEPULTURA - SEPULQUARTA
On August 9, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its latest report, warning it was “a code red for humanity”. The alarm came just weeks after it was reported that parts of the Amazon rainforest had gone from absorbing carbon dioxide to emitting it. On August 13, a band with a front row seat to the catastrophe, Brazilian thrash metallers Sepultura, released their new album. They had been due to tour their previous album, Quadra, which features "Guardians Of Earth", their tribute to the Indigenous people of the Amazon, but the coronavirus pandemic meant they had to cancel. Instead, they channeled their incendiary energy into a podcast on which they collaborated with famous friends on some of their best social justice anthems, such as "Slave New World" and "Fear, Chaos, Pain, Suffering". The result is the new album, Sepulquarta. MORE>>>
2. HOMEBOY SANDMAN - ANJELITU
The video for Sepultura's "Guardians Of Earth" features Indigenous people holding up placards pleading for the Amazon not to be turned into an oilfield, a mining pit, or a cattle ranch. As Brazil's President, Jair Bolsonaro, continued to do just that, US rapper Homeboy Sandman released his new EP, which preaches against the evils of cattle farming. On "No Beef", he raps: "You can keep that beef, keep that flesh, keep that meat, keep that death ... It's been said everyone'd be vegan if slaughterhouses were made of glass, but I'm afraid the reason for it is even more sordid: Slaughterhouses are made of cash." But despite "No Beef" extolling the virtues of veganism, the EP's previous song is a ditty about the joy's of cow's milk. "I wrote half of these songs when my energy was either headed in the wrong direction or already there," explained the emcee. LISTEN>>>
3. LINGUA IGNOTA - SINNER GET READY
Further north, in Mexico, pastor Brian Houston ─ who is a friend of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison ─ was spreading the word of his infamous Hillsong church after being controversially allowed out of Australia during a pandemic that had closed its borders. But on August 4, Australian police charged him with concealing a child sexual offence and ordered him to appear before a Sydney magistrate. On August 6, US experimental artist Lingua Ignota released her new album, Sinner Get Ready, which rails against sexual abuse and corruption in religion. “Upon your pale pale body I will put many hands,” she sings. “And rough, rough fingers for every hole you have.” Such child abuse ─ rife in religion ─ can result in an extreme distrust of authority. The album came as anti-authoritarian protesters rallied against vaccines in the US Bible Belt, risking further virus mutations. LISTEN>>>
4. MAE POWELL - BOTH WAYS BRIGHTER
As impoverished Mexicans faced having their families split up for trying to cross the US border, US indie musician Mae Powell released her new album on August 20, which rails against the bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. On "Fuck I.C.E." she sings: "This stormy weather’s been happening forever. Fuck borders and fuck I.C.E., keep families together. So many suffering with so much to say. We’ve gotta raise their voice it’s the only way. Oh no, we can’t fight hate with hate. It’ll only make it grow. But when it feels so impossible what can we do? Call your representatives. Call your best friends. Call your racist grandma and say, 'I love you but something has gotta change.' No, these things can’t stay the same. No, something has gotta change. No one is free until we’re all free." LISTEN>>>
5. HUGHES TAYLOR - MODERN NOSTALGIA
On August 16, the desperation of such refugees hit headlines worldwide as Afghans fleeing the Taliban clung to a US army plane as it took off from Kabul airport. They were caught on video as they fell to their deaths at the end of a 20-year occupation that is estimated to have created at least 2.7 million refugees. As Western media lamented the "loss of women's rights" in Afghanistan, journalist John Pilger pointed out that women's rights had really existed in Afghanistan only under a previous secular socialist government that the West destroyed. Released just weeks earlier was the new album from Hughes Taylor, featuring the song "The Refugee". On it, the US southern rock musician sings: "The refugee, a heavy soul. On the run with nowhere to go. The night ensues, relentless and cruel. Bound restraints of its only rule." LISTEN>>>
6. DRINKING BOYS AND GIRLS CHOIR - MARRIAGE LICENSE
As queer Afghans feared for their lives under the Taliban, a reminder came from South Korea that homophobia isn't limited to the developing world. On their new album, skate punks Drinking Boys And Girls Choir hit out at the prejudice that keeps gay couples from marrying in the rich east Asian nation. The band say the album is about widespread sex crimes against women and "what a harsh society it is for women and queers, in their representation by the system of marriage, and for others who have diverged from 'normality'. It should be something that anyone can do easily, but it is still difficult for some people to talk directly and indirectly about being discriminated against. We are angry and anxious about the world that does not change easily, but we believe that it can definitely be a good world and we want and sing brightly to live together with hope." LISTEN>>>
7. PYRA - FKN BAD PT.1
Elsewhere in south-east Asia, Thai pop star Pyra was risking jail for speaking out against Thailand's junta government. The video for "Bangkok", the lead single from her new EP, features symbolic references to crackdowns on political activism, and one singer-turned-activist who appears in the video was arrested on lese-majeste charges this year. Talking about the track "Paper Promises", Pyra said: “I talk about the government in general and how elitist it is everywhere in the world." And on the single "Yellow Fever", she tackles Asian fetishisation with the words: “Bet you think we’re all made in China. Betchu think the yellow screams louder. And all Bangkok babies are designer. Betchu wondering if I got a vagina.” Her EP came as attacks on Asians increased worldwide as racists blamed China for the coronavirus pandemic. LISTEN>>>
8. DONALD EDWARDS QUINTET - THE COLOR OF US SUITE
Racism was certainly alive and unwell in the US, where a Black real estate agent and his client were handcuffed at a house viewing on August 1. Tackling such prejudice is the new jazz album from the Donald Edwards Quintet, released on August 20. The Color Of Us Suite opens with children of colour wondering, "does the US love us?" and is followed by the song "Tan", which calls for the mixing of colours for "freedom, democracy and equality". A week earlier, veteran rocker and Bruce Springsteen collaborator Willie Nile released his new album, which was inspired by his encounter with the late Black civil rights icon and US Congressman John Lewis. That followed the new, posthumous, album from pop legend Prince. Although it was made a decade ago, the anti-racist Welcome 2 America ─ hailed by critics as "Prince's best political work" ─ sounds just as relevant today. LISTEN>>>
9. THE HALLUCI NATION - ONE MORE SATURDAY NIGHT
Across the border in Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ─ who recently survived a scandal in which photos surfaced of him in blackface ─ launched his re-election campaign on August 11. The move came days after Indigenous dance-hip-hop pioneers The Halluci Nation released their new album, which tackles Trudeau head on. On “The OG”, the band ─ previously known as Tribe Called Red ─ sample a 2018 remark in the House of Commons by Cree MP Romeo Saganash, who asked: “Why doesn’t the prime minister just say the truth and tell Indigenous peoples that he doesn’t give a fuck about their rights?” The band's DJ, Bear Witness, said the disregard that Saganash references has “been true ever since there’s been prime ministers in Canada. We didn’t feel that moment was memorialised enough. It was a really big thing for Indigenous people and it needed more time in the spotlight.” LISTEN>>>
10. SON VOLT - ELECTRO MELODIER
Trudeau is trying to be re-elected on an environmental platform, yet he bought an oil pipeline to ensure crude exports could increase. Likewise, his counterpart in the US, President Joe Biden, was elected by saying he would act on climate change, but has since approved new pipelines to bring crude oil from the Canadian tar sands and on August 11 urged OPEC to raise oil output. Summing up the despair is the new album from US alt rockers Son Volt, which laments Indigenous injustice. On "Living In The USA" they sing: "Share a little truth with your neighbour down the block. We’ve all got fossil fuel lungs while we run out the clock." And on the climate change-themed "Arkey Blue" they holler: "Who now speaks of the fires that ravaged towns? Boats cross the Arctic since glaciers melted down. Turbulent rains never before seen, caused the floods that washed away dreams." MORE>>>
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mat Ward has been writing for Green Left since 2009. He also wrote the book Real Talk: Aboriginal Rappers Talk About Their Music And Country and makes political music. This year, he released a concept album about the controversial mission to make humans an interplanetary species. You can download the expanded edition free for a limited time here.
Stream our new "Protest albums of 2021" playlist on Spotify here. This replaces the previous "Political albums" playlist, that was getting too big at more than 700 albums.
Read about more political albums here.
Stream Green Left TV's political music playlist here.
Listen to this column as a podcast here.
The multi-award-winning journalist John Pilger says: "There are few other newspapers — radical or any other kind — that draw together news and analysis that is as well informed, credible, and non-sectarian as Green Left. Its work has influenced mine and has been a beacon to those who believe the press ought to be an agent of the people."