Here's a look back at January's political news and the best new music that related to it. You can also listen to a podcast of this column, including all the music, here.
1. TASMAN KEITH - TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN
On January 1, Australian prime minister Scott "ScoMo" Morrison marked the new year by changing the words of the national anthem from "we are young and free" to "we are one and free". He did so "to appreciate the timeless spirit of the ancient land we call home, and the connection to this place of Indigenous peoples who have cared for our country for thousands of years". But if Australians were truly "one and free", the incarceration rate of Indigenous Australians would not be 10 times that of non-Indigenous Australians. If Australians were truly "one and free", the white man suspected of killing Aboriginal children in the New South Wales town of Bowraville in the 1990s would probably not still be walking free. Indigenous rapper Tasman Keith, who was born in Bowraville, tackles such subjects on his debut mixtape, by "showing his confidence to racists/bigots", in his words. LISTEN>>>
2. BEANS ON TOAST - KNEE DEEP IN NOSTALGIA
Of course, ScoMo's "one and free" inclusivity does not stretch to refugees who come to Australia fleeing war and persecution, a brutal policy that culminated in riots at its offshore Christmas Island detention centre on January 5. ScoMo's "I stopped the boats" refugee-bashing is so well known that it even crops up on the new album by British folk singer Beans On Toast. On "Your Old Mate Beano", he sings about touring Australia: "I ain't seen any spiders yet, but I've seen lots of kangaroos. I love the way you shorten words and add an 'O'. This is not a conversation, it's a convo. It's not a registration it's a rego. Down Under in Australia, picking up the lingo — and for all intents and purposes, I'd like you to call me Beano. Your Old Mate Beano... And what about ScoMo? I heard he hates homos and reffos. Back home we call that an arsehole." LISTEN>>>
3. SLEAFORD MODS - SPARE RIBS
Back home in Beans On Toast's country, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was copping plenty of flak as he finally implemented Brexit by breaking Britain away from the European Union. Rocketing all the way up to Number 5 in the charts was a single titled "Boris Johnson Is A Fucking Cunt" by comedy punk band The Kunts, whose album has to be heard to be believed. Following that up the charts was Asian Dub Foundation's unconventional Brexit-bashing single "Coming Over Here". Also putting the boot into Brexit were electronic punks Sleaford Mods, with their new album, hailed as "a searing masterpiece". On "Out There" they spit: "Let's get Brexit fucked by a horse's penis until its misery splits, ugly rich white men get shagged by it." Talking about the album, singer Jason Williamson told Irish media: "Right now it’s embarrassing to be English. I feel ashamed, frankly." LISTEN>>>
4. NICK LUTSKO - SONGS ON THE COMPUTER
On January 6, shameful nationalism also came to a head when US President Donald Trump incited white supremacists to break into the Capitol building in an attempt to invalidate the US election he'd lost. The rioters were led in part by members of QAnon, a group of conspiracy theorists who believe Trump will save the world from an evil cabal of Democratic paedophiles and liberal celebrities who harvest children's blood. The next day, comedy songwriter Nick Lutsko released his insanely catchy new album, which features the track "Baby Blood". On it, he sings: "Celebrities are hot because they all drink baby blood. And Donald Trump is saving us from satanic, pedo scum. Why do you think he looks like shit? 'Cause he refuses to put baby blood against his lips. Why is his name all over Epstein's list? 'Cause he's been playing the long game, duh. He had to trick 'em." LISTEN>>>
5. THE ANTI VIRALS - BRAINWASHED
After maskless white supremacists freely roamed the Capitol building without being arrested, three House Democrats announced they had tested positive for COVID-19, prompting concern that the siege had turned into a super-spreader event. Four days after the insurrection, aptly-named Californian band The Anti Virals released their debut album of raw, Sex Pistols-style punk, which was inspired by the US government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and its denial of science, as well as the right-wing backlash against wearing masks. On "Idiot Nation", they seethe: “You’re exactly what’s wrong! The world will thrive when you’re gone! Last idiot generation, last idiot, idiot nation.” Singer Brian Coakley calls the screed a “song of hope” because he thinks that eventually wiser generations will rise out of such turbulent times. MORE>>>
6. GRANDSON - DEATH OF AN OPTIMIST
However, even a president as depraved as Trump was able to claim the moral high ground over his predecessors when he proclaimed in his farewell speech on January 19: "I am especially proud to be the first new president in decades who had started no new wars." That pitiful fact won't have escaped Canadian protest musician Grandson. Describing the song "WWIII" on his hook-laden and heavy debut album, he said: "What’s more American than war? This [song] is through the eyes of a soldier who believes initially that what he’s doing is the right thing, but he starts realising that this isn’t like the video games: ‘I shot a kid who was same age as me / just because he’s not from the same place as me.’ The war in Afghanistan is old enough to have a beard and drive a car at this point — it’s so crazy that we’re still in these things and the exit is so unclear.” MORE>>>
7. VARIOUS ARTISTS - HOPE RISES
As 80 countries joined a new United Nations nuclear treaty on January 22, ScoMo refused to sign Australia up, instead welcoming Armageddon with open arms as he backed the nation's coal industry for decades to come. Rightly raising the alarm were award-winning protest duo Emma's Revolution, who channel climate activist Greta Thunberg on their song "Our House Is On Fire", which opens a new protest compilation album of young activist artists put together by Noel "Paul" Stookey of fabled folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary. "Melting glaciers, put out the fire," sing Emma's Revolution. "Rising seas, put out the fire. Bleaching coral, put out the fire. Our house is on fire. Shrinking shorelines, put out the fire. Sinking islands, put out the fire. Growing drylands, put out the fire. Our house is on fire." LISTEN>>>
8. THIS FRONTIER NEEDS HEROES - GO WITH THE FLOW
Equally enraged by the climate lunacy is US country artist This Frontier Needs Heroes, who rails against such madness on "Fossil Fuel Fascists", found on his new album, released on January 20. "'Fossil Fuel Fascists' is a song I wrote when Trump nominated Rex Tillerson to be Secretary of State," he said. "Democracy was limiting their ability to make profits and destroy the planet with impunity so they just took over the levers of our government. The normal corrupt artifice was not enough." On taking power, new US President Joe Biden announced he was cancelling the bitterly-contested Keystone XL pipeline that carries oil from Canada to the US. The move prompted so-called "progressive" Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to announce that he was "disappointed" with the move. Meanwhile, Biden issued dozens more oil drilling permits in his first few days as president. LISTEN>>>
9. DUBROW - POLITE UNTHREATENING POP SONGS
Having been banned from Twitter, Trump turned to his favourite media outlet, Rupert Murdoch's climate change-denying Fox News, to broadcast his thoughts in the dying days of his presidency. On January 15, Murdoch's son, James Murdoch — who quit the family firm in protest at its climate coverage — blamed media companies like Fox for egging on Trump and fomenting the Capitol insurrection. The move came as Australia's Senate released submissions to former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's call for a Royal Commission into Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. Instead, Murdoch was handed an Australia Day lifetime achievement award on January 26, and used his speech to slam "awful woke" culture. Summing up the cringe was the innovative new album from Melbourne musician Dubrow, on which he sings: "The day Rupert Murdoch died, nobody cried." LISTEN>>>
10. ANI DIFRANCO - REVOLUTIONARY LOVE
As US federal agencies warned that the divisions sown by the likes of Fox News are likely to breed domestic terrorism in the US for years, veteran protest singer Ani DiFranco released her new album on January 29, which tries to bridge the divide. She said its title track, "Revolutionary Love", is "about carrying the energy of love and compassion into the centre of our social movements and making it the driving force. It’s about finding it within ourselves to stay curious about our opponents instead of shutting down.” On the song, the long-time feminist activist's lyrics sound like those of an abused lover as she sings: "I will tend my anger. I will tend my grief. I will achieve safety. I will find relief. I’ll show myself mercy. I’ll show myself respect. I’ll decide when I’m ready, to forgive but not forget... Yes, I will bring the love. The revolutionary love." 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 month, 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 500 albums.
Read about more political albums here.
Stream Green Left TV's political music playlist here.
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