As the fucked-up doom of the US election looms, here's a look back at October's political news and the best new music that related to it. What albums would you suggest? Comment on Twitter, Facebook, or email.
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1. PAMELA MEANS - AND THE REPARATIONS LIVE AT NORTHFIRE
On October 2, US President Donald Trump was hospitalised with the coronavirus after refusing to wear a mask. On October 5, he re-emerged, seemingly unaware he was high as a kite on drugs, claiming the coronavirus had made him feel "20 years younger" and saluting on the White House balcony like some mentally deranged monarch. Having none of it was The Descendents' punk singer Milo Aukerman, who released his new Trump-trouncing EP on October 7 containing the lyrics: "Monarchy in the USA. Is that the way you want it to be?" In a similar vein, two days later, Milwaukee jazz guitarist Pamela Means released her impeccable new album, which opens with the words: "Cashing in on the environment, rolling back rights that we died to get, corporate tax breaks permanent, I don't think that's what Jesus meant. The President is incompetent, an embarrassment. Impeachment Now!" LISTEN>>>
2. RESISTANCE REVIVAL CHORUS - THIS JOY
On October 16, Resistance Revival Chorus, a collective of more than 70 women and non-binary singers that formed after the 2017 Women's March against Trump, released their debut album, complete with an illustrated lyric book to sing at protests. "This Joy was recorded in New York City over the space of several months, with the chorus working around COVID-quarantine, and taking to the streets to protest for Black Lives Matter," say the group. Striving to centre women in music and address how historically marginalised women have been in the music industry, the chorus have a manifesto of finding joy through protest, manifested on the album in songs such as "Joy In Resistance" and "Wild Womxn Pussy Power". The album came as Trump, infamous for his "grab 'em by the pussy" line, desperately tried to appeal to women voters in the run-up to the election. LISTEN>>>
3. SPEAKER MUSIC - BLACK NATIONALIST SONIC WEAPONRY
Also grounded in the streets is the new album from experimental techno producer Speaker Music, who riffs on Trump's white supremacist slogan "Make America Great Again" with his motto: "Make Techno Black Again". The song “African American Disillusionment With Northern Democracy Continues to Smolder in Every Negro Who Has Settled Up North After Knowing Life in the South”, with its news anchors discussing white agitators at Black-led protests, will be food for thought for many white activists, along with the album's educational booklet. On October 16, the city of Portland, Oregon, filed a lawsuit alleging Trump violated the US Constitution by deploying heavily armed agents to crack down on local street protests. The suit came days after Portland musician David Rovics released his new album, Say Their Names, which tackles the battles raging in his city's streets. LISTEN>>>
4. ELA MINUS - ACTS OF REBELLION
On October 23, as Trump chased the Latino vote in Florida, Colombian-born US electronic musician Ela Minus released her new album, Acts Of Rebellion, which is inspired by anti-capitalist theory. It came just days after the socialist party of Bolivia was swept back to power in elections that rejected a US-backed coup, reviving hopes of a political "pink tide" sweeping South America once again in defiance of decades of US meddling. In an interview on October 6, a long-time supporter of the Cuban Revolution, veteran musician Silvio Roriguez, talked about his new album, Para La Espera. He said the meaning of the album's title is twofold: It alludes to the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic and to the nearly two-decade wait for the release of the Cuban Five, intelligence officers arrested in the US who have become national heroes. LISTEN>>>
5. WAR ON WOMEN - WONDERFUL HELL
One of the global leaders hoping for Trump's re-election is Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was given US approval last year to wage war on the women fighting for a feminist, eco-socialist democracy in Kurdistan. As rallies were held to support the women in October, US feminist punk band War On Women released their new album, which hits out at the US President and his ilk. The title track, "Wonderful Hell", emerged during a period when vocalist Shawna Potter was feeling exhausted and overwhelmed by life in the Trump era. “I think it expresses something that a lot of people are feeling," she said. "Like, ‘OK, we had our moment. Now it's time to get back to work. We can't let this happen again. We can't endure another four years of this.’" LISTEN>>>
6. JELLO BIAFRA - TEA PARTY REVENGE PORN
On October 9, Trump's re-election bid was officially endorsed by Afghan Islamic fundamentalist warlords the Taliban. A week later, long-time punk provocateur Jello Biafra released his new album, containing the song "Taliban USA", which compares the sexist, repressive politics of the Afghan military organisation to those of Trump's Republican Party. On October 7, Democratic vice presidential hopeful Kamala Harris praised the United States' "great military" during her debate with Trump's Vice President, Mike Pence. But just days earlier, a study revealed the 19-year US-led "war on terror", begun in Afghanistan, had displaced more than 37 million people. Trump instantly rejected his endorsement from the "terrorist" Taliban. But on October 24, a report found that far-right groups are behind most US terrorist attacks. LISTEN>>>
7. BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN - LETTER TO YOU
On October 23, famed Democrat Bruce Springsteen released his new album. The rock'n'roll icon said he'd deliberately avoided taking direct swipes at Trump on the record, but his lyrics have always been open to interpretation. On “House of a Thousand Guitars” he sings: “The criminal clown has stolen the throne. He steals what he can never own.” And on "Rainmaker", which describes a demagogue who tricks farmers into believing he can end a drought, he sings: "Rainmaker says white's black and black's white. Says night's day and day's night... Rainmaker, take everything you have. Sometimes folks need to believe in something so bad, they'll hire a rainmaker." Rolling Stone said of the song: "He perfectly dressed his message in a melody made for a stadium singalong. Springsteen has said he wrote the song before Trump took office, but the fact that it’s coming out now speaks volumes." LISTEN>>>
8. BON JOVI - 2020
On October 2, Springsteen's friend and fellow New Jersey musician, Jon Bon Jovi - famed for No.1 hits such as "Livin' on a Prayer" and "You Give Love a Bad Name" - released his surprisingly outspoken new album, 2020. Discussing the political turmoil of the year, he said: "If you're a writer, this is fertile ground. I mean, it's almost put me in this position emotionally right now that I don't know why I would ever wanna rewrite 'You Give Love a Bad Name', you know?" On "American Reckoning", written as protests broke out over the police killing of African-American George Floyd, he sings: "America's on fire. There's protests in the street. Her conscience has been looted. And her soul is under siege. Another mother's crying, as history repeats. I can't breathe." Addressing it, he said: "If I'm not the poster-boy for what could be described as white privilege, then who is?" LISTEN>>>
9. SHEMEKIA COPELAND - UNCIVIL WAR
On October 23, during the final presidential debate before the US election, Trump tried to "shame" his rival, Joe Biden, into admitting he didn't support climate-wrecking fracking. The same day, Shemekia Copeland - hailed as "the best blues singer on the planet" - released her radical new album, which contains the fitting song "Money Makes You Ugly". Over powerful guitar, she hollers: "The ice is meltin' and my lawn’s on fire. The world's got a fever gettin' higher and higher. Raping mother nature, fracking up the earth. Selling off the land for all that it's worth. Just a little blue rock flying through space. Whoever told you that you own this place? Money makes you ugly, baby that’s the truth. Money makes you ugly, you’re the living proof." The album was produced by multi-instrumentalist Will Kimbrough, who released his own acclaimed political album the same day. LISTEN>>>
10. STEVEN PRICE - DAVID ATTENBOROUGH: A LIFE ON OUR PLANET (ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK)
On October 8, 93-year-old wildlife presenter David Attenborough announced a new environmental award, the Earthshot Prize, to “help to repair our planet over the next 10 years”. Days earlier, classical composer Steven Price had released the soundtrack to Attenborough's new documentary in which the presenter describes watching the world being destroyed over his lifetime and calls for a "rewilding" of the planet. On October 18, anarchist intellectual Noam Chomsky, 91, discussed his new book in which he advocates for much the same thing. Noting that Trump is an even bigger threat than Adolf Hitler - since Trump's scrapping of nuclear treaties and environmental regulations threatens not only Jewish people, but the entire human race - the long-time critic of the Democratic Party resignedly said: "If you don't push the lever for the Democrats, you are assisting Trump." LISTEN>>>
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 media hailed as "edgy, daring and new". You can download the deluxe version free for a limited time here.
Stream our new "Protest albums of 2020" playlist on Spotify here. This replaces the previous "Political albums" playlist, that was getting too big at more than 500 albums.
Read about more political albums here.
Stream Green Left TV's political music playlist here.
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