10 new albums that will inspire you to fight

September 28, 2023
Protest albums from September 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 September 2023.


Britain's "leading union", Unite, announced protests on September 7 to increase pay and end the unsafe staffing afflicting National Health Service (NHS) workers. A week earlier, NHS doctor and protest musician Nishant Joshi released "Deathwish", the latest single from the new EP by his punk band Kill, The Icon! Discussing the song, he said: “I wanted to show the contrast between the subtle racism that I’ve faced all my life — being passed over for jobs, and ahem, gigs — compared to my parents who were actively shunned while they were settling in.” His Indian-origin parents moved to Britain from Uganda in the 1970s after the then dictator, Idi Amin, ordered the expulsion of all Asians. Meanwhile, a British Indian whose parents also migrated from East Africa, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, claimed to be battling ballooning NHS waiting lists, all while coming under fire for slashing climate regulation. LISTEN>>> 


After expelling climate protesters who tried to disrupt its opening, the fossil fuel-guzzling, elite Burning Man music festival in the US was swamped by climate-induced floods on September 1. Nine days later, US President Joe Biden proclaimed that climate change poses a greater threat than nuclear war. But a week after that, protesters in huge climate rallies threatened to vote him out unless he reverses his climate-wrecking policies. Capturing the climate anxiety was US experimental musician Jeff Rosenstock on his new album, which seethes at how "decisions get made by these pricks who benefit from disaster". Amping up the volume further was Danish folk musician Dan Rose, with his new climate-themed protest album, This House Is On Fire. And linking the planet's destruction to the exploitation of animals was Irish grunge musician Pete Mac, on his new LP, which features the song "Voiceless". LISTEN>>>


Also speaking up for the voiceless through grunge music was French musician Loonrise, with his new animal rights-themed album, Eulogy for the Wordless Souls. That was followed days later by the new album from queer Indian pop star Rahul Rajkhowa, who has been standing up for his fellow villagers as the Indian government pushes urbanisation. On Tunes For The Jungle, Rajkhowa sings for the animals endangered by such industrialisation. Hitting back at similar ecological destruction in Brazil was the new album by experimental Sao Paulo musician Babe, Terror. His fellow Brazilian, Grammy-winning musician Ivan Lins, sings for the disappered dissidents in their country on his new album. It came as activists in Gadi/Sydney, Australia, discussed the new "pink tide" of left-wing governments coming to power across South America, giving some hope to the region's Indigenous and other oppressed peoples. LISTEN>>>


Closer to home for those activists, Aboriginal people were under fire from all angles as the vote loomed to enshrine an Indigenous Voice to Parliament in the constitution. Despite the legislation being widely criticised as "powerless", white supremacists have shown themselves to be little different from the mafia in rejecting the proposal: try to step out of line even an inch and they'll retaliate out of all proportion. Punching back on September 22 was Yorta Yorta rapper Briggs, who announced a music festival to promote a Yes vote. "I feel like No just reinforces the racism and the negative, which to me is unacceptable," he said. On September 6, Briggs' fellow Aboriginal rapper Darah, who hails from the same rundown town of Shepparton, Victoria, released a far more radical political manifesto onto streaming services - his incendiary album Blackfella Revolutionary. LISTEN>>>


Also calling for a Yes vote was Rob Hirst, the drummer from legendary Australian protest band Midnight Oil, on his new EP, released on September 8. Addressing its song "No Longer Shadows", he said: “Midnight Oil are very big ‘vote yes’ supporters ... we’re confident [of] people’s good hearts and understanding of what’s being asked — which is simply a request to consult with Aboriginal people on affairs which affect them — it’s such a small and humble request from people that have had such a shocking time for the last 240-odd years in this country.” On September 22, the shocks continued as it was revealed Rio Tinto had damaged another Indigenous heritage site in a mine blast, just three years after it was condemned worldwide for destroying Juukan Gorge. Three days later, it was reported that a New South Wales police officer had allegedly assaulted an Aboriginal teenager in hospital. LISTEN>>> 


On his new album released on September 22, US jazz musician Idris Ackamoor rejects the notion that such cops are the exception. On "Police Dem", he sings: "Police dem, some good, most bad. Police dem, all lies, no fact." Sharing that sentiment are his fellow US jazz musicians Irreversible Entanglements, who made their live debut at a Musicians Against Police Brutality event. Their new album, which came out on September 8, features the protest song "Our Land Back", described by the band as “an anthem to struggles for self-determination by peoples who have been dispossessed of their land and denied the right to return” worldwide, from Iraq to Ethiopia. The band's Keir Neuringer added: "Land back movements, here in the US, in Palestine, and really everywhere settler-colonial culture has dug in its exploitative, genocidal tentacles, must succeed for our children and their children to thrive." LISTEN>>>


Also seething over stolen land is the new album from South African musician Vusi Mahlasela, released on September 22. On its track "Azamali", the artist, who is known reverently as "The Voice" in his home country, intones: "We sing for our land stolen, for our true name to be restored, for our monuments destroyed, for our wealth to be returned to the children... Africa will smile again and her face will be etched in gold." On the track "Tlala Mphekole"  he laments the resulting poverty with the words: "Why in this world of plenty are those carrying a lot on their shoulders while their tummies are empty? We can change the case if you move from your position. Stop humiliating the poor." The album came as mass protests against occupying French troops intensified in Niger. Three days after the album's release, French President Emmanuel Macron said France would end its military presence there. LISTEN>>>


Africans living in America don't have it much better, as addressed on the self-titled new concept album by Belgian punks Burning Kross. The whole album is about the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921, in which white supremacists burnt an area of Tulsa, Oklahoma, that had become known as "Black Wall Street" to the ground, killing hundreds. As if to make the album's intentions explicit, the artwork depicts a Ku Klux Klan member with a burning cross rammed into his torso. However, if you'd prefer to hear things from those closer to the experience, check out the new album from African-American country artist Chris Pierce, released on September 1. Talking about its track "Tulsa Town", Pierce, who has played with artists as big as Neil Young and BB King, said: "Even though Tulsa is just beginning to see the light of day as far as the race massacre, this kind of thing happened all over the country." LISTEN>>> 


"Black women" are one of the many influences groundbreaking metal musician Otep cites in creating her latest hard-as-nails album, released on September 15. Others include "Generation Z", "the Trans community", "animal rights advocates", "Indigenous women" and "the women in Iran". Discussing the record, which came out as Donald Trump was still riding high as the most likely Republican presidential nominee despite facing multiple court cases, she said: "Where we are now politically is we're actually fighting fascism in America ... I'm working class ... I'm always gonna represent the working class, and I am a liberal, and I'm gay and I'm a vegan. For me, I draw a very, very — I mean, it's not even a line - I've dug a canyon between my side and whatever red [the Republican party] means now." And in case anyone wants to cross that line to pick a fight, she cites one of her biggest influences as "powerlifting at the gym". LISTEN>>>


One musician who probably wouldn't try it on with Otep is disgraced Anti-Flag singer Justin Sane. On September 5, Rolling Stone magazine published an article in which 12 more women accused the supposedly leftist, pro-feminist punk of sexual assault. One of his alleged victims was a 12-year-old girl from his church group when he was 17. That may leave people wondering whether the church was where he learnt to put on a pious public persona while allegedly abusing people in private. Three days after the article was published, veteran US country musician Joan Osborne released her album Nobody Owns You, whose title track is a feminist anthem she wrote for her daughter to defend her against such men. Days earlier, another supposedly leftist musician, Nahko Bear, released his new album, Trenches, whose title alludes to his claim he has been "cancelled" by the many women who've accused him of assault. LISTEN>>>   

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.

[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.

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