1. SON VOLT – UNION
At the start of the month, an 18-year-old construction worker was killed as scaffolding collapsed in Sydney - the fifth building site death in Australia this year. The tragedy highlighted the need for strong unions in the construction industry as they face a government ever more determined to shut them down. Three days earlier, US alternative country rockers Son Volt released their new album backing unions. The title track, "Union", "speaks to how media conglomerates make profit by dividing people”, said band leader Jay Farrar. The album came as Queen drummer Roger Taylor, who previously released a song slamming divisive media baron Rupert Murdoch as "king of the tits", released a similarly seething new song titled "Gangsters Are Running This World". Days later, US punk diehards Chokehold released their first album in more than two decades, calling for more unity among leftists who attack each other on social media. "No more us versus us," they said. "It's us versus them." MORE>>>
2. RAPTOR COMMAND – ELON
As union-bashing, coal-loving Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison geared up to call the federal election on April 11, he slammed the opposition's plan for half of new vehicle sales to be electric by 2030. That prompted Elon Musk, controversial CEO of electric car company Tesla, to point out that Norway had already reached that milestone this year. Days later, US heavy metal band Raptor Command released a concept album about Musk that's as thunderous and thrusting as one of his SpaceX rockets. The fact that Musk's cars get heavy metallers excited enough to sing "energy and power keep us calling all the shots, I'm racing down the road with my one hundred thousand watts" goes a long way to explaining how he's inspired the entire car industry to start building electric cars. The album, which also champions solar energy as a giant "Fusion Reactor (In The Sky)", came as Morrison approved the giant Adani coalmine, which threatens to destroy Australia's Great Barrier Reef in Queensland. MORE>>>
3. LIZZO – CUZ I LOVE YOU
In an apparent sign he really does have a heart, Morrison choked back tears on April 5 as he announced a royal commission into the abuse of disabled Australians while citing his brother-in-law, who has multiple sclerosis. Yet just three days earlier his government had announced a budget surplus from a future "$3 billion underspend in the National Disability Insurance Scheme, after a $3.4 billion underspend in the current financial year". The news came as Californian Marxist activist Cola Boyy, who has spina bifida, promoted his new EP while gearing up to play the huge Coachella festival. His chosen genre - the able-bodied dancing haven of disco - is a statement in itself. “My existence is political," he said. "I have no other choice than struggle.” Also preaching body positivity and self-love is US artist Lizzo, whose powerful, catchy soul is as hard-hitting as her message. “The only exes I care about are in my fucking chromosomes,” she hollers on her new album. MORE>>>
4. RUPA & THE APRIL FISHES – GROWING UPWARD
On April 21, as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi whipped up anti-Muslim fervour among voters, Muslim extremists bombed the neighbouring island of Sri Lanka, leaving hundreds dead and many more disabled. Two days earlier, San Francisco-based Indian expat Rupa Marya released her highly political sixth album with her band, Rupa and The April Fishes. The doctor, who aims to "decolonise medicine" through her relentless international activism, said growing up in northern India, followed by the south of France, "really solidified my sense of living beyond nations and seeing a world where I could see the commonalities between people really clearly". Also influenced by the French is Tuareg guitarist Mdou Moctar, whose new album released days earlier notes how the colonisers treated his people "like slaves" as they took uranium and natural resources. On its title track, "Ilana" he sings in Tuareg: “Our heritage is taken by the people of France, occupying the valley of our ancestor.” MORE>>>
5. RUSSKAJA – NO ONE IS ILLEGAL
As someone who left his country to chase a dream, Mdou Moctar would relate well to the rollicking new album from Austrian polka rockers Russkaja. On the anthemic, multilingual title track, "No One Is Illegal", Georgij Makazaria sings for all refugees: "Sarah was a little girl, a girl like all the others. She loved to sing and play and dance, with her sisters and her brothers. She would be a mum someday, with a home and a loving man. But other people somewhere else had a different plan. Her family gone, her home alight, in that little village. She took flight, in the dead of night, from murder, rape and pillage. She barely made it out alive, she made it to this country. Won’t you give a helping hand? Nadie es ilegal. It ain’t hard to understand, niemand ist illegal. She found a life, she found a love, she became my mother. The story of a little girl, nadie es illegal. That’s the message to the world - niemand ist illegal." Yet on April 28, Australia froze its refugee intake. MORE>>>
6. GRUPO FANTASMA – AMERICAN MUSIC: VOLUME 7
Also not getting the message was US President Donald Trump, who told children during an Easter egg roll on April 22 that his contentious wall to stop "illegal immigrants" crossing the border from Mexico was "being built now". Days earlier, Texas band Grupo Fantasmo released their mostly Spanish-language seventh album, American Music: Volume 7, whose title is a reminder that American culture isn't just Anglophone. Highlight "The Wall" opens with the lines: "Mente positiva, venimos a cambiar. Mente positiva, venimos a luchar: Positive mind, we come to change. Positive mind, we come to struggle." Then they rap: "Walls are bound to fall, expose treachery. My pot is melting, best switch your recipe." On April 12, alternative folk rockers Shovels & Rope released their new album, including the song "C'Mon Utah!", which shares its name with their children's book about a mythical horse named Utah who reunites displaced families with their loved ones after the fall of Trump's wall. MORE>>>
7. TAINA ASILI – RESILIENCIA
8. GANG OF FOUR – HAPPY NOW
9. LOWKEY – SOUNDTRACK TO THE STRUGGLE 2
Rolling Stone magazine once described Gang of Four as "probably the best politically motivated band in rock and roll". Those are big shoes to fill, but if any artist is worthy it's British Iraqi rapper Lowkey, who returned to music this month after seven years of studying to sharpen his politics. His new album, released on April 5, opens with the rapper interviewing one of the world's top living intellectuals, Noam Chomsky, and doesn't let up from there. It would all be pretty niche, however, if his rapping didn't rate and the hooks weren't huge, but much of the album is so instantly infectious it feels like you've been hearing it on the radio all year. However, as one of the skits on the album points out, Lowkey's success is all the more remarkable because he never garnered radio play and did it all independently. Little wonder when his subject matter is so uncompromising, from gunning for Palestine, to burning up the perpetrators of London's Grenfell Tower blaze. MORE>>>
10. SEAN TAYLOR – THE PATH INTO BLUE
Grenfell also features on the artwork for the new album from British folk singer Sean Taylor, released on April 12. On the song "Grenfell" he draws a bitter line between the tragedy of the fire and inequality, singing: “The working class get zero hours - and a place to die in Grenfell Towers." However, the album casts its net far wider than that, from depression and religion to alcoholism and Brexit. Also battling Brexit - and namechecking Grenfell - is house music DJ turned avant garde experimentalist Matthew Herbert, whose sprawling new two-hour concept album about Brexit is a fitting metaphor for the protracted negotiations. It was released on March 29 to mark Brexit's deadline, but the deadline came and went, with only Matthew Herbert delivering. If the elites wanted Brexit, would the voters' mandate have been passed without a whimper? It's a question that hangs as uncomfortably as the discordant notes in Herbert's unsettling work. MORE>>>
Video: Russkaja - No One Is Illegal (Official Video). Russkaja.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mat Ward has been writing for Green Left Weekly since 2009. He is the author of the book Real Talk: Aboriginal Rappers Talk About Their Music And Country. He also makes political music. This year, he released a new album about surveillance including a song about Julian Assange who was arrested this month. Follow him on Spotify here.
Read about more political albums here.
Stream Green Left TV's political music playlist 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 Weekly. Its work has influenced mine and has been a beacon to those who believe the press ought to be an agent of the people."