10 new albums to lift your lockdown mood

April 29, 2020
April 2020 political albums sleeves

Here's a look back at April's political news and the best new albums that related to it. What albums would you suggest? Comment on TwitterFacebook, or email


On April Fool's Day, Public Enemy rapper Chuck D said that the firing of his band's co-founder, Flavor Flav, weeks earlier had all been a hoax "to clown the world's media" and generate publicity for the radical, banging new album by Chuck D's side-project, Enemy Radio, released on April 1. Flavor Flav had ostensibly been sacked for objecting to a performance by the group to support leftist Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders. On April 8, Sanders dropped out of the race, sinking all hopes of universal health care amid a pandemic that is disproportionately killing Black people, whose poor health is addressed on the album in the song "Food As A Machine Gun". That left the Democratic Party establishment with their preferred presidential candidate, Joe Biden, who has said he would veto universal health care if it was passed as legislation and has a long record of racism and sexism - including a newly alleged sexual assault. LISTEN>>>


The woman who has alleged Biden sexually assaulted her in 1993 says she wanted to go to police at the time, but was discouraged by her brother. “Woefully, I did not encourage her to follow up,” he said. “I said let it go, move on, guys are idiots.” Such oppression is addressed on the new album by electronic artist Caribou. "The first song, 'Sister', is about the #MeToo movement and thinking that I was somebody who was an ally or aware that sexual violence, etc, was a problem," he said. "But then realising during that moment, I had no clue and I was completely unaware of the reality of the situation in women's lives, broadly speaking." It's a rare thing for dance music to get explicitly political, but that also came this month in new albums from British synth-twiddlers Wrangler, who tackle revolution and climate change, and US deep house supremos Dave + Sam, who take on US President Donald Trump and his coal-promoting lunacy. LISTEN>>>


As Trump tackled the huge coronavirus death toll in his country by whipping up anti-Chinese racism and suggesting people inject disinfectant, pop superstar Beyonce used fundraising concert One World: Together At Home to highlight the fact that the pandemic was killing Black people out of all proportion. The concert raised funds and support for health workers as vaccination experts pointed out the pandemic was a market failure, since developing a vaccine years earlier had been deemed unprofitable. Before the album was released, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson emerged from intensive care to thank the foreign nurses who had saved his life as he lay suffering from coronavirus in a London hospital. Yet just months earlier, his party had raised the fees immigrant nurses have to pay to work in the NHS, despite a shortage of nurses, with health secretary Matt Hancock tweeting: “It’s the National Health Service not the International Health Service.” MORE>>> 


As such leaders worldwide urged children to go back to school for the sake of the economy, putting both kids and teachers at risk, Grammy-nominated folk artist Alastair Moock released an album on April 3 that should be part of the curriculum for home-schooled kids. Be A Pain - An Album For Young (And Old) Leaders aims to teach kids - and adults - about politics by singing them songs about protesters. Remarkably, it's not only beautifully produced and packed with strong, singalong songs, but Moock also manages to inject a sense of fun into the music itself. Little wonder The New York Times has called him “a Tom Waits for kids”. Promoting the album's launch concert before it had to be postponed, the musician said:  “It’s not an age-specific album, and the show won’t be either. You can get beer there. That’s very important for everyone to know that there’s beer involved: I think there’s not enough children’s shows with beer available.” LISTEN>>>


Also railing against lunatic leaders is the new album from British electronic rockers Enter Shikari, released on April 24. On "Waltzing Off The Face Of The Earth (I. Crescendo)", frontperson Rou Reynolds takes on Trump and his ilk as he opines: "Regardless what you feel, here comes the big reveal: Darling, you were a mistake, and climate change is fake. You must dream of being rich and famous. Only then will life be painless. We all start to twig, from pig to man, from man to pig. There's been a shooting in a Walmart, so put guns on every shopping cart. There's dead kids on the beach. Bigoted parents now decide what teacher's teach." Discussing the track "Elegy for Extinction", Reynolds said: "Eventually it all comes to a rather dramatic and rather terrifying crescendo, trying to convey the anthropocene and the fact we’ve lost 50% of our species – the fact we have all sorts of terrifying possibilities brought about by climate change and human influence.” LISTEN>>>


Lucinda Williams, often called "the female Bob Dylan" was likewise pulling no new punches on "her most political album yet", released the same day. Discussing the heavy blues album, which tackles Trump in songs like "Man Without A Soul", the revered musician said: "Besides the pandemic, we're dealing with the worst president we've ever had in the history of the United States. So the songs are very relevant to what's happening right now. What I was thinking about when I was writing the songs was either what's going on now — the state of the government and the way things are — or five years ago. I've always wanted to write more topical songs... At the age of 16, I was reading books like Autobiography of Malcolm X and Dick Gregory and going to anti-war demonstrations and handing out SDS [Students for a Democratic Society] leaflets at school, getting kicked out of high school for not saying the pledge of allegiance. So it's always been in my blood." LISTEN>>> 


Sharing that sentiment was folk-punk rocker Derek Zanetti, otherwise known as The Homeless Gospel Choir, who also released his new album the same day, six days after news broke of the "warmest oceans on record". On opener "Global Warming", he sings: "Reynolds Wrap and bottle caps, plastic see-through children's backpacks, are washing up on a neighbourhood beach near you. I fill up at least once a week - and that's just me. There are fifty other cars parked on this fucking street. Ran out of places to bury the trash. The ocean's on fire. The pipeline's exploding with discounted gas... Donald Trump thinks global warming was made up by the Chinese." Discussing the record, he said: "We have an absolute maniacal, super-evil-villain president who thinks that global warming was a hoax that was created by the Chinese. I thought of a million clever ways to try to make fun of him in this record, and I was like, 'He’s doing it himself. I’m just gonna quote him.'” LISTEN>>>


Back in Australia, as coronavirus-stricken cruise ship the Ruby Princess was ushered out of sight, Aboriginal hip-hop heavyweight Briggs released the most topical record of the month, which ridiculed Prime Minister Scott Morrison with the words: "At least the Ruby Princess has a fucking captain." It came as vulnerable Indigenous communities across the country came under disproportionate threat from the virus and others mourned further deaths in custody. Meanwhile, over in Canada, Aboriginal rappers Snotty Nose Rez Kids released their new album, Born Deadly. On "Cops With Guns Are The Worst!!!" they rap: "Fuck the police, with a fist to the sky! We fighting for the future homie pick a side. New lies, cut ties, new genocide. We the future and the future will be televised. No peace signs homie cut power out. When the yutes in the building this a powerhouse. We the new generation we gone keep it moving. Flip the flag on its head this a revolution." LISTEN>>>  


Despite the coronavirus pandemic cutting worldwide emissions dramatically, scientists warned it wasn't enough to abate the onslaught of climate change. Anticipating  that dismaying news were Melbourne punks Cable Ties, whose new album "Far Enough", released just days earlier, opens with the words: "My Uncle Pete, he's complaining about the Greenies, he says that they have gone too far. I say, 'Pete, they don't go far enough!'" Discussing the song "Pillow", frontperson Jenny McKechnie, who recently took part in a youth songwriting workshop, said: "That song's about all of the challenges that young people face with climate change, and changes to the labour system, and increased casualisation of the workforce, and facing an oncoming recession, and everything that's happening. And, in the face of that, young people are incredibly resilient, are fighting and are doing a lot." On April 22, Australia's Energy Minister said he was buying up oil due to its record low price. LISTEN>>>


If climate change or nuclear war don't wipe out the human race, an asteroid almost certainly will. That's the driving force behind billionaire Elon Musk's mission to make humans a multiplanetary species, but US rapper Sole is under no illusions about what Musk's Mars colony will be like. On his dystopian new album Worlds Not Yet Gone, he raps: "We all come from the dust, space dust to be exact, and that's word to Elon Musk, in new shackles, we're going back... dirty bomb against the walls of your mining colony. Hard to strike when the boss controls the air you breathe, the water you drink and the means to leave. Bet there's a Starbucks on Mars before they build a bookstore, red lung on a deathbed asking, 'What we need a book for?' They won't look you in the eye. They won't bury your body on Mount Olympus when you die. They'll drain you of your water, use the rest for compost, and who can blame them? The future belongs to who foots the bill." LISTEN>>>

Video: Briggs & Tim Minchin - HouseFyre (Lockdown Video) #StayHomeBriggs.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mat Ward has been writing for Green Left Weekly 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 new concept album about the media. You can download the deluxe version free for a limited time here.

Stream our political albums playlist on Spotify.

Read about more political albums here.

Stream Green Left TV's political music playlist here.

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