Here's a look back at April's political news and the best new music that related to it, which tackles the wars on workers, women and minorities worldwide. You can also listen to a podcast of this column, including all the music, here.
1. BURNING FLAG - MATADOR
On April 5, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson - fresh from saying workers had had too many "days off" by working from home during the coronavirus pandemic - announced the country was opening back up. Days later, British feminist punks Burning Flag released their debut album, which samples Johnson vowing that his much-maligned Brexit will "close the productivity gap", on the track "Broken Britain". Over crunching, punishing guitars, singer Holly Searle then seethes: "What democracy do we live in when voting for a broken Britain? What future do we face when voices can be swayed by hate? Don’t think they’ll ever change, funded by the upper classes. Only way to make a wave is to riot in our masses. Resist, organise, revolt, welcome to a broken Britain. Reject, liberate, exalt, welcome to a broken Britain." LISTEN>>>
2. THE MEMBERS - BEDSITLAND
On April 16, Australia's Federal Court found Google illegally misled phone users when it collected location data after users thought they'd turned off tracking. A fitting reply comes on the new album by Burning Flag's fellow broken Brits The Members. On "Big Data (Hey Google)", the veteran punks sing: "Sitting at home, all on your own, suddenly you get an advert on your phone. Was it Gmail, or was it Alexa, or, hey Google, are you spying on me? They're checking your phone calls, they're reading your mail, they're putting your info up for sale." Likewise, the comeback album from leftfield hip-hop pioneers Consolidated rages on the song "Capitalism A.F.": "You've gotta stop thinking you can change the world by clicking on a screen. The only way to change anything real is in real time with real people. That's why it's called real. Otherwise it's called capitalism." LISTEN>>>
3. EVAN GREER - SPOTIFY IS SURVEILLANCE
On April 9, internet freedom activist Evan Greer released the album Spotify Is Surveillance, which aims to draw attention to the music streaming platform's plans to listen in on users' conversations and use the information it gleans for profit. On "Surveillance Capitalism", the pop-punk artist sings: “We’re all connected to machines. Hate every second but we just can’t look away. We all want to be seen. But behind the screen, there’s a nightmare dressed up as a dream.” Greer, who identifies as transgender, also says the album's track “The Tyranny of Either/Or” is "an open letter to transphobes". A week later, protesters took to Sydney's streets to oppose a bill by far-right politician and men's rights advocate Mark Latham that aims to prohibit teachers from educating students about trans and gender-diverse people or providing such students with any support. LISTEN>>>
4. VARIOUS ARTISTS - STARS ROCK KILL (ROCK STARS)
On April 8, Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan, continued the worldwide war on women by linking rape to "vulgarity" and how women dress. A fortnight later in Sydney, women fought back with the third successful feminist and LGBTIQ+ walking tour of the city. Pushing the same causes is the new album from "riot grrrl" record label Kill Rock Stars, which celebrates its 30th anniversary with cover versions of songs by its celebrated acts such as Bikini Kill. “We’re also more consciously saying we are feminist, queer, and political than we did 30 years ago," said label founder Matthew Moon. "In this era, you’re not going to see many straight cisgendered white men on the label.” John Goodmanson, producer of many of the label’s acts, added: “The bands were transcendent and important. When you hear Bikini Kill’s 'Rebel Girl', you’re fucking dancing. It’s like a Bat-Signal.” LISTEN>>>
5. VARIOUS ARTISTS - DIAVOLI
Bringing some much-needed feminist politics to dance music is Portuguese techno artist ØTTA with her song "The Future Is Female", found on the Noam Chomsky-sampling compilation Diavoli. Over pounding beats, the classically-trained musician asserts: "We are women. We are not chicks, pigs, cows or dogs or any other kind of farm animal. We're not bitches or nags or psycho or hysterical. We're not bimbos or slags or tramps or sluts or tarts or whores. We are god damn motherfucking superheroes. And since the power's not given to us, we're going to take it." Her song "Silence Is Oppression", which urges "no silence, no racism, no sexism" has also become a pro-choice anthem at protests throughout Poland, although she originally made it for the Black Lives Matter movement. She is also appearing on the forthcoming Womxn EP, "a celebration and a message of womxn empowerment". LISTEN>>>
6. VARIOUS ARTISTS - 100% THREE FINGERS IN THE AIR PUNK ROCK
In Myanmar, where female former leader Aung San Suu Kyi now languishes in detention after a military coup, the killings continued throughout April. On April 5 it was revealed Australian bank ANZ had refused to sign a letter condemning the coup, after activists revealed that Great Barrier Reef-destroying coal mining company Adani paid about US$52 million to the junta to build a container port in Yangon. On April 4, others hit back with a fundraising compilation album for poverty charity Food Not Bombs in Yangon, whose activists are on the frontlines of the anti-coup movement. The album's title, 100% Three Fingers In The Air Punk Rock, is a hybrid of punk band Chaos UK’s iconic 100% Two Fingers In The Air Punk Rock record (as the two fingers hand gesture means "fuck off" in Britain) and the popular three-fingers salute adopted by protesters in Thailand and Myanmar. LISTEN>>>
7. PEGGY SEEGER - FIRST FAREWELL
As the military waged war on Myanmar, US President Joe Biden announced American troops were pulling out of Afghanistan. The move came as more alleged war crimes by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan were revealed. On April 23, two days before Australia's annual celebration of the military, Anzac Day, British punk pioneers Rudimentary Peni returned with Great War, an album based on the WWI poetry of Wilfred Owen. "I felt World War I was sadly perfect for what we do,” said singer Nick Blinko, who suffers from schizoaffective disorder. “It’s long been deeply associated with madness.” It followed the new album from Peggy Seeger, the half-sister of famed protest singer Pete Seeger, which includes the song "How I Long For Peace". On it, she sings: "The profits made from war, there's few that can resist them. Hypocrisy and greed control the lifeblood of the system." LISTEN>>>
8. DAMON LOCKS - NOW
Biden's pledge to withdraw troops from Afghanistan by September 11 actually delayed a deadline of May set by his predecessor, Donald Trump. Its aim was also not to promote peace, but to prepare for a coming war with China. Still, just in case anyone had forgotten just how mad Trump and his followers were, US blues musician Popa Chubby released a poignant reminder with his album Tinfoil Hat, which tears strips off the former president. On April 21, former cop Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering African-American George Floyd, whose killing even white supremacist Trump condemned. The murder was painted as an "exception", but within 24 hours of Chauvin's conviction, US police killed six more people, including a 16-year-old Black girl. Articulating African-Americans' fear and anger was radical jazz musician Damon Locks with his new protest album, Now. LISTEN>>>
9. JEAN-MICHEL JARRE - AMAZONIA
As a possible coup loomed for the "Trump of the Tropics", Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, French electronic music pioneer Jean-Michel Jarre released his new album, which focuses on the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. Jarre, the 72-year-old son of a French resistance fighter, released the April 9 album to accompany a project featuring testimonials from indigenous people on the need to save their culture and environment from the likes of Bolsonaro, who has opened up the Amazon for development. It came as Indigenous people protested against deaths in custody in Australia. Other environmentally-themed albums released in April include US country musician Todd Snider's First Agnostic Church Of Hope and Wonder, which features the song "That Great Pacific Garbage Patch", and Perth-based permaculture promoters Formidable Vegetable's Garbage Guts, which slams waste. LISTEN>>>
10. MARE COGNITUM - SOLAR PAROXYSM
On April 23, Prime Minister Scott Morrison embarrassed Australians on the world stage by refusing to commit to any emissions cuts at a climate summit convened by Joe Biden. Instead, he said Australia would look at how to reduce emissions through as-yet-unproven technology, to allow it to carry on churning out coal and gas. Summing up the angst was the new album from black metal band Mare Cognitum, warning of “what happens if we don’t shape up and, firstly, deal with our rapidly approaching doom to climate change, and secondly, pay real attention to the societal ills [of] fascism, racism, and hatred in general that are plaguing us and dragging us away from real solutions”. At the summit, Boris Johnson assured that Britain's steep emissions cuts were about jobs, not "bunny huggers", prompting climate activist Greta Thunberg to change her Twitter bio to "bunny hugger". 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 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."