10 new albums kicking protest goals

July 29, 2023
Protest albums from July 2023

Do you think there's no good protest music these days? So did I, until I started looking for it. The truth is, it’s always been out there, but it's sometimes just a bit difficult to find. Every month, I search it out, listen to it all, then round up the best of it that relates to that month’s political news. Here’s the round-up for July 2023.


On July 1, Melbourne's Ecosocialism 2023 conference tackled the controversial topic of economic degrowth. Days earlier, British dub reggae stalwarts Zion Train released their new album, which includes the song "Degrowth". On the opening track, singer Cara calls for the same system-wide change as the conference as she announces: "Here we come with the dissident sound, smash up the system, turn that shit around, frontline, feet on the ground, this is a dissident sound." The conference could be attended remotely. But introverts who shied away may take heart in the new solo album from Nicky Wire of leftist chart-topping rockers The Manic Street Preachers, released on July 2. Discussing it, he said: “There’s a line on the album, ‘I’m not a socialist any more. The social bit leaves me cold.’ I am still a socialist and I do believe in it but I’ve always struggled with the communal, social aspect of it." LISTEN>>> 


Wire may find some kind of solidarity in the band Power Alone, who released the follow-up to their album "Rather Be Alone" just three days before his. On its track "Cancer" they seethe: "No one’s safe, had no choice, we’re born into this toxic world. Poisons in all our bodies, industrial society’s casualties. I’ve seen so many friends suffer, I can’t imagine their fear. There’s no escape, disease and pain will come for us all, it feels like our fate." Days later, the World Health Organisation warned that artificial sweetener aspartame could cause cancer, but soda companies would not have to stop using it. That came after similar alerts for talcum powder, deodorant and supermarket receipts. On July 16, The Sydney Morning Herald reported that 50,000 Australians a year now die from cancer. That followed reports that half of all Australians and Britons will get cancer in their lifetimes. LISTEN>>> 


Anyone who has to work for the cancer-causing capitalist machine may find solace in the new album by Lauren Bousfield. The experimental electronic musician hawks her skills to pay bills by writing commercial soundtracks. In her free time, she hits back with furious anti-capitalist music like that found on Salesforce, released on July 7. Discussing her paid work, she said: “Society does not work, nothing works, so making music for something that’s like, ‘This totally works!’ makes me feel more sardonic.” Similarly scathing anti-capitalist screeds are also found on the new album by New York guitarist Marc Ribot, released a week later. Both albums came as business media outlet Bloomberg announced that members of its Billionaires Index made $US14 million a day on average this year. It went on to praise prominent member Warren Buffett for a "bet worth backing" - his increased investment in fossil fuels. LISTEN>>>


While praising Buffett's bet on fossil fuels, Bloomberg was also reporting that climate change was now threatening "Europe's $US2 trillion travel industry" as "Greek wildfires displace 19,000 in the country’s biggest evacuation". In another report, it worried that: "The greening of the seas is another bad sign." The alerts kept coming. "The US broke 2000 high temperature records in the past 30 days," reported NPR on July 25. That followed the news that July 5 was the hottest day ever registered on Earth. “This is not a milestone we should be celebrating,” said one climate scientist. “It’s a death sentence for people and ecosystems.” The next day, award-winning British singer Anohni released her timely new album, which despairs at the climate chaos. On “It Must Change”, whose video depicts Californian wildfires, she croons: “No one’s getting out of here. That’s why this is so sad.” LISTEN>>>


The contradictions of the media - promoting fossil fuel-driven capitalism on the one hand while reporting its climate destruction on the other - are ably deconstructed by Noam Chomsky in his new Masterclass course, released on July 14. A week earlier, Fed Conti released his new album, which samples the intellectual's cutting remarks over a cutting-edge blend of electronica and modern jazz. It's the 33rd album released by The Noam Chomsky Music Project, which aims to amplify his message through music. "The lemmings may be going over the cliff," he says on Conti's opening track. "But they haven't fallen off yet, so of course you continue." Continuing the resistance were Just Stop Oil activists, who protested at Wimbledon on July 5. Yet, as Chomsky-citing media analysts Media Lens pointed out, lemming-like Labour leader Keir Starmer replied: "I can’t wait for them to stop their antics, frankly." LISTEN>>>   


Amid such sentiments, it was unsurprising that, on July 26, Bloomberg reported that wildfires were set to double Canada's emissions this year. The news came a fortnight after appropriately-named Canadian band Freak Heat Waves released their new album. On its title track, "Mondo Tempo", they say: “One degree worldwide, one degree worldwide... Let’s realise it’s a crime.” The album followed those by Indigenous Canadian country musician Saltwater Hank, sung in his language; Native American metal musician Blackbraid, who eulogises nature; and Melbourne-based Maori-Cherokee duo Divide And Dissolve, who blast radical politics through doom metal. Days later, as Australians were warned of bushfires after years of heavy rain, Spinifex Gum released their new album. On it, the band, made up of Aboriginal choirgirls and white indie musicians, blast Australian mining companies' destructive work. LISTEN>>>    


As the women's soccer World Cup kicked off in Australia and New Zealand on July 20, Aboriginal sports star Adam Goodes slammed its organisers, FIFA, for their "empty" Indigenous symbolism. Joining the attacks on FIFA were the players themselves, who are fighting for pay parity and prize money that equals the men's event. A week earlier, Australian feminist punks Glitoris released their stupendously strong new album, which blasts the fatal effects of such sexism on the song "Femicide". On July 19, their feminism appeared to be far more authentic than that of political punks Anti-Flag. The band, whose songs include "Feminism Is For Everybody (With A Beating Heart And A Functioning Brain)", split up and deleted their social media accounts just hours after a woman said the singer of a well-known political punk band had yelled "football tackle" before pinning her down by the throat and raping her. LISTEN>>>     


The Women's World Cup marked the first time a Palestinian - the hijab-wearing Heba Saadieh - had refereed any World Cup match. On July 14, her fellow hijab wearers, Muslim metal sensations Voice Of Baceprot, released their new album. In songs such as "God, Allow Me (Please) To Play Music", the young trio slash at the restraints put on them in conservative West Java, Indonesia. "We grew up as farmers' daughters," they said. "It was really hard to just say no to our parents when they told us to get married... Heavy metal gave us the courage to say: 'No! I will play metal until I can't any more!" The album's song "[NOT] PUBLIC PROPERTY" was released as a single on International Women's Day to raise funds for victims of sexual violence. The LP followed that by male Palestinian electronic duo Zenobia, which was inspired by women protest musicians and 3rd-century Syrian queen Septimia Zenobia. LISTEN>>>


Queer Australian soccer star Sam Kerr said on July 3 that she would regrettably not risk wearing a gay rights armband at the Women's World Cup, after FIFA banned any LGBTQ insignia. FIFA had at least allowed Zambian star Barbra Banda to play, after she was banned in the Africa Cup of Nations for having testosterone levels that were deemed too high. The move came before a new survey published on July 18 found most African youths are opposed to boosting LGBTQ rights. Damning such bigotry are Banda's fellow Zambians WITCH, whose new album - featuring Zambian-Australian rapper Sampa The Great - topped US college radio charts on July 11. On its closing track, “Message from WITCH” they lay out their intentions with their music: “It unites beliefs, conquers xenophobia. It laughs at hate speech, ends sexism. It erases homophobia, shatters antisemitism, embraces every race.” LISTEN>>>


Also aiming to erase homophobia was Matty Healy, whose band, The 1975, were banned from Malaysia on July 22 after he kissed his male bassist on stage in a protest against the country's anti-gay laws. Fighting the same fight was queer country musician Eli Conley on his new album, released on July 14. A fortnight later, Conley's fellow queer country musician Pink Williams released his new album, Commie Cowboy, which comes packed with anti-capitalist tirades. With 1950s-style recording techniques, Williams manages to sound both timeless and topical as he takes on Donald Trump and his followers on its humorous song "Don The Con". Showing Williams may face an uphill struggle was country musician Jason Aldean. On July 24, his "anti-woke" new single, "Try That In A Small Town", hit No.2 on the Billboard charts after its video was pulled for featuring the site of a racist lynching. LISTEN>>>

Video: ANOHNI and the Johnsons - It Must Change (Official Video). ANOHNI

Want to get this column every month? Just email matwardmusic@gmail.com and I’ll add you to my monthly email that includes a link to this column here at Green LeftYes, I want to read this column every month.

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, Mat Ward released his new album, Climate Wars.

Stream our new “Best protest songs of 2023” playlist on Spotify. This replaces the previous “Political albums” playlist, that was getting too big at more than 700 albums.

Read about more political albums.

Stream Green Left TV’s political music playlist.

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.”

You need Green Left, and we need you!

Green Left is funded by contributions from readers and supporters. Help us reach our funding target.

Make a One-off Donation or choose from one of our Monthly Donation options.

Become a supporter to get the digital edition for $5 per month or the print edition for $10 per month. One-time payment options are available.

You can also call 1800 634 206 to make a donation or to become a supporter. Thank you.