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 - it's 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 June 2022.
1. VARIOUS ARTISTS - NOW THAT'S WHAT I CALL PRIDE
On June 1, the world's richest person, Elon Musk, tweeted a meme mocking gay pride celebrations. Days later, it was reported that his transgender child had filed a request to "change her name to reaffirm her gender identity and distance herself from her father". On June 4, victims of gay and transphobic hate crime were honoured in Sydney's Bondi. On June 10, The Sydney Morning Herald "outed" actor Rebel Wilson as bisexual, sparking global anger. The next day, it was reported that Disney's new Buzz Lightyear movie had been banned in 14 countries because it features a lesbian kiss. Amid all the homophobia, it was unsurprising that the new compilation Now That's What I Call Pride was seen as a political statement, rather than merely an attempt to cash in on the pink dollar. But if you're after something with more gravitas, check Melbourne's new queer label, Tomboi Records, launched on June 30. MORE>>>
2. PETROL GIRLS - BABY
On June 24, conservatives were calling for a ban on same-sex marriage. They had been emboldened by the US Supreme Court voting that day to wipe out 50-year-old laws protecting women's right to an abortion, despite such legislation reducing crime. The move was slammed by pop stars worldwide. The same day, feminist punks Petrol Girls released their searing new album, featuring lead single "Baby, I Had An Abortion". "Save the sperm because it's sacred," it screams. "Blessed is the foetus. But god damn the children in existence." On "Sick & Tired" they blast such legislators with the words: "I'm tired of fighting a justice system stacked against us, sick of these pantomime villains and the way they spin their shit." And on "Fight for Our Lives", they slam femicide with the words: "We mourn every sibling stolen by male violence. Trans, sex workers, undocumented. Our murders are systemic." LISTEN>>>
3. SHAINA TAUB - SONGS OF THE GREAT HILL
On June 22, it was reported that an Australian man had allegedly poured petrol over a one-year-old child and hit a woman in the back of the head with a glass. The news was similar to that of Australian father Rowan Baxter, who murdered his wife and three children by dousing them in petrol and setting them alight. On June 19, as the US and other countries celebrated Father's Day, the masterly new album from Shaina Taub reminded listeners that not all fathers are worth celebrating. On "Father's Day", the New York cabaret songwriter and activist sings: "There are so many fathers to celebrate, old, departed and new. If you have or had a wonderful dad, this song is not for you... It's about time that we all admit, plenty of papas are pieces of shit." The album also takes a swipe at that seemingly lacking father, Elon Musk, with its barbs about Mars-loving billionaires. LISTEN>>>
4. WÜRST NÜRSE - THE WÜRST NÜRSE CÜRSE
As the union-hating Musk hit headlines on June 22 for sacking workers without adequate notice, nurses and other public sector workers planned strikes across Australia. Despite such employees having worked to the brink of exhaustion during the coronavirus pandemic, politicians responded by announcing a fivefold increase in fines for such strikes. Capturing the anger is the new EP from Melbourne's Würst Nürse, who call themselves "the world's best and only nurse punk band". "We are incredibly passionate about what we do and draw inspiration from the good and the bad of our healthcare experience," said singer Steph about the group, whose members are all working registered nurses and union members. "These particular songs are to raise awareness to the struggles nurses continue to face... Our pay should reflect the risks we are exposed to on a daily basis. Dedication does not pay the rent." LISTEN>>>
5. THE TANGENT - SONGS FROM THE HARD SHOULDER
As workers faced homelessness from pay cuts and increasing inflation, British prog rockers The Tangent released their new album on June 10, which tackles such issues. On "The Lady Tied To The Lamp Post", one of its epic, 20-minute songs of astounding musicianship, songwriter Andy Tillson recounts the freezing winter night he came across a homeless woman tying herself to a lamp post so that she could sleep upright without falling over. He goes on to attack councils who put spikes on benches and blast the homeless with irritating pop songs such as "Crazy Frog" to get them to move on. Also tackling the cost-of-living crisis is Universal Credit, the new album from British rapper Jeshi. It came as activists noted that the new increase in Australia's minimum wage "won’t even buy an iceberg lettuce" after a day's work. LISTEN>>>
6. TROY CASSAR-DALEY - 50 SONGS 50 TOWNS, VOL.1
Addressing Australia's most oppressed people is the new album from Aboriginal country musician Troy Cassar-Daley, released on June 17. The first in a series of five live acoustic collections dropping every fortnight, it includes the song "Shadows On The Hill", which recalls his people's massacre. "I see shadows on the hill," he sings. "Up beside the old sawmill, where my people were killed. I see shadows on the hill... In around the granite stones, they'll forever be alone. Their killers got off free, but their shadows never leave." Showing how little things have changed, the next day, rallies were held across Australia to call for the end of armed police in Aboriginal communities. At the intense and emotional event in Sydney, the relatives of Indigenous people killed by police directly addressed the officers surrounding the crowd. LISTEN>>>
7. HAZEEN - SOVEREIGN MURDERS
On June 20, activists marked World Refugee Day as Australia's supposedly progressive new government continued to turn away refugees under its Operation Sovereign Borders security operation. Three days earlier, Sydney Muslim black metal band Hazeen released their new album, Sovereign Murders. Its title comes from a slip of the tongue previous prime minister Scott Morrison made when launching the operation as "Sovereign Murders". "The music of Hazeen addresses the expanding field of Islamophobia and bigotry in contemporary Australia," say the band. They enlisted former Kurdish-Iranian thrash metal guitarist Kazem Kazemi, who was held as a refugee in Australia's offshore detention camp on Manus Island for six years, to play on the record. It was released just days after hundreds of people protested against anti-Muslim fascist Tejasvi Surya speaking at a conference in Melbourne. LISTEN>>>
8. SPEED - GANG CALLED SPEED
Also tackling Australian racism is the new EP from Sydney hardcore punks Speed. It was released on June 24 as Australia continued to beat the drums of war against China. On the song "Not That Nice", singer Jem rages against the rise in hate crimes against Asian people during the pandemic with the words: "Bite my tongue? They’re racist. My story ain’t told by fools.” Jem, who is one of three first-generation Asian Australians in the band, said: “This was one of the first times that I’ve really seen people that look just like me – that look just like my family – attacked on the street." Days earlier, his fellow Sydneysider BLESSED, who produced Aboriginal rap megastar The Kid Laroi's breakthrough EP, released his new album. On lead single "No Changes", the African-Australian rapper protests against Australia's inaction on racial and gender inequality as well as climate change. LISTEN>>>
9. TOMÁS DONCKER & THE TRUE GROOVE ALL-STARS - ENDANGERED
Also protesting inaction on racial inequality is the new album from veteran African-American activist and musician Tomás Doncker. Endangered, a multimedia album project including an art installation and live show, addresses "the historical conundrum that Black men in America are endangered". It was released to mark the Juneteenth holiday on June 19, the date of America's supposed "end of slavery" in 1865. For the project, Doncker teamed up with Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa and artist Floyd D Tunson. Tunson's powerful painting Racial/Facial Recognition, which graces the album cover, addresses Black people being accused of crimes because of algorithms that do not reflect African-American features. The same issue is taken up on the latest album by innovative Canadian rapper Cadence Weapon, who released his new memoir on hip-hop and activism just days earlier. LISTEN>>>
10. MATTHIAS VOGT - PIANISSIMO
Cadence Weapon's album also targets Canadian PM Justin Trudeau with the words: “My Prime Minister wears blackface, but he don’t really wanna face Blacks.” On June 16, Canada and other Western countries showed their disdain for poorer, non-white nations as they refused to take environmental action at the Bonn climate conference in Germany. Days earlier, German jazz musician Matthias Vogt released his new climate-themed album, which features interviews with activists worldwide. On June 22, industrial rockers Killing Joke re-released their album Absolute Dissent, which addresses another global threat, the rise of human-endangering artificial intelligence known as "singularity". It came days after a Google employee was suspended for saying its AI project had become "sentient". That's technology that even Elon Musk says should be in the hands of government, not private companies. LISTEN>>>
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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 based on protest chants, Why I Protest. You can download it free for a limited time.
Stream our new "Best protest songs of 2022" 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.
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