10 new political albums that sum up 2020

Political albums artwork November 2020

Here's a look back at November's political news and the best new music that relates to it. You can also listen to a podcast of this column, including all the music, here.

1. MY POLITIC — SHORT-SIGHTED PEOPLE IN POWER

At the start of November, as US President Donald Trump repeatedly warned he would claim the looming US election was rigged if he lost, plenty of musicians were making a last-ditch effort to make sure he didn't win. Among the best were folk duo My Politic, who released their new album, Short-Sighted People In Power, just days before the election. On it, they manage to turn the words "fuck the president, fuck the G.O.P." into a surprisingly catchy ear worm. Also seeing him out in style were Brent Amaker and The Rodeo, who mix camp cowboy stylings with Ennio Morricone theatrics and spaghetti western sound effects on their new EP. On "Dump Trump", which is made for audience participation, they sing: "I can't handle the smell. It lingers in their air. Take a trip to the dump. Load up the truck with all the junk. Just one way to clean things up. Dump Trump!" LISTEN>>>

2. RUTHLESS COSMOPOLITANS — RUTHLESS

Also skewering the impending election were art-punks Ruthless Cosmopolitans, who blend the high camp of the B52's with plenty of humour on their new record, which was released just before the poll. On prophetic opener "Make America Hate Again", they sing: "Make America hate again. Maybe we deserve this fate my friend. Pretty soon it'll be too late and then we'll make America hate again. Fuck the Earth. America first. Find the leak. Tweet, tweet, tweet. Voter fraud. Inside job. Martial law. God save us all." They say the "spell was cast" for the band "in a spontaneous retch of inspired revulsion on August 12, 2017 — the day of the white supremacist march and counter-protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, where Heather Heyer was run over by a car in cold blood". Their record, they add, "riffs on the minefield of 'civilization' in decline through a Dada-esque lens". LISTEN>>>

3. BARFBAG — LET'S STOP A WAR

Deliberately released on election day was the short, sharp new album from hardcore punk supergroup Barfbag, which is made up of members from Nine Inch Nails, War Orphan and Awolnation. The album is titled Let's Stop A War, seemingly suggesting the election could do just that, but as some speculated that Trump would launch a nuclear war in his final days as president, others saw President-elect Joe Biden as far more hawkish. On election day, sharemarkets surged as investors quickly realised the Democrats would be able to implement only a few, if any, of their proposed changes. “It’s interesting that since the record was recorded, protest music or protest songs have found their way into the mainstream,” said singer David Bason. “More and more pop artists are doing it … people have reached their breaking point and now it’s finding its way into the mainstream, which I think is fantastic.” MORE>>>

4. HARRY SHEARER — THE MANY MOODS OF DONALD TRUMP

As Trump sank into a deep funk after the election, not by launching a nuclear war but by sending out censored tweets and playing golf, the voice actor who plays Mr Burns, Ned Flanders and more in cartoon series The Simpsons provided a fitting soundtrack in his new album, The Many Moods Of Donald Trump. Harry Shearer has fine musical chops — he played bassist Derek Smalls in smash hit heavy metal mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap and went on to tour worldwide with that band. He said his new album about Trump is "not only trying to get the sound of his voice but the nature of his so-called brain, because you have to understand how he’s using his voice”. Surprisingly for a voice actor, he doesn't really sound anything like Trump, but does provide plenty of belly laughs, though not always in a politically correct way — he's playing the "pussy grabber", after all. MORE>>>

5. REBEKKA KARIJORD & JON EKSTRAND — I AM GRETA (ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK)

On November 6, as Trump raged about the US election results, 17-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg turned his own words against him by tweeting: "Donald must work on his Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Donald, Chill!” She was mocking a tweet the US President had made about her being made Time Person of The Year last year, when he said: "So ridiculous. Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!” Thunberg's mocking tweet came days after the release of a new movie about her, I Am Greta, and its soundtrack. The music is tense and emotional, but the soundtrack could have benefited by including some of the dialogue from the movie in the same way that other great soundtracks — such as Slim & I and A Life On Our Planet have this year. MORE>>>

6. DR SURE'S UNUSUAL PRACTICE — WHILE AUS BURNS

On the day of the US election, Great Barrier Reef-wrecking coal mining company Adani tried to change its name to Bravus without the election-focused media paying too much attention. But the story got better with age, as reporters cottoned on to the fact that Bravus is Latin for “crooked” or “mercenary”, not brave. Meanwhile, Australia's politicians continued to cook the climate by approving the Narrabri coal seam gas project in north-west New South Wales, despite 98% public opposition and even right-wing former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull saying the project makes no economic sense. Summing it all up was the new album from Melbourne punks Dr Sure's Unusual Practice, While Aus Burns. On opener "Blood Munny" they sing: "They decimate the targets. They desecrate the land. They pay off the legislators. They've all got bloody hands." LISTEN>>>    

7. MIDNIGHT OIL — THE MAKARRATA PROJECT

On November 8, Midnight Oil bassist Bones Hillman died, just one day after the legendary Australian band's new record became their first chart-topping studio album since 1990. The Makarrata Project has the stated intention of keeping the Uluru Statement from the Heart at the forefront of the national conversation and features multiple Indigenous artists. Their participation speaks volumes about their capacity to forgive Oils' singer Peter Garrett for his controversial time as federal environment minister. With The Makarrata Project, Garrett is back doing what he does best. Days after its release, Aboriginal death metal band Southeast Desert Metal released their Metallica-like cover version of Midnight Oil's worldwide hit "Beds Are Burning". The cover version appeared on a new compilation to mark National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) week. MORE>>>  

8. MONKEY MARC — VITAL SOUND

On November 13, Monkey Marc — a former geologist who spent years living in the outback and running music workshops with Indigenous communities — released his new album of storming collaborations with some of the world's biggest names in dancehall reggae. The producer, best known Down Under for his music with activist collective Combat Wombat, has been clocking up millions of YouTube views with the singles from the album, which was produced partly in his solar-powered shipping container studio in Melbourne. On "Yaad N Abraad", collaborator Dre Island spits: "Light bill, water bill, everybody cry. Gas rate, land tax gone sky high. Corruption, destruction, political cry. More guns than shelters for the homeless child. Diseases have yuh wheezing and yuh don’t know why. Coughing till yuh throat sore, no cure in sight." LISTEN>>>

9. FEAR NO EMPIRE — FEAR NO EMPIRE

As a cure came in sight for the coronavirus, its death toll in the US continued to rise. Infections in the country surged to a one-day record of 184,000 on November 13. In one week, the number of cases since the pandemic began went from 10 million to 11 million. A new survey by National Nurses United found that even hospitals were still failing to provide adequate personal protective equipment. Meanwhile, Trump supporters continued to refuse to wear masks as they rallied to claim the election was a fraud. Amid the pandemic, Fear No Empire — who blend punk, hip-hop and politics in a ferocious mix — released their new EP, on which they scream: "Wear a fucking mask! You dumb fuck!" Their singer, who fled Iran for the US, said: "“Having escaped a country that restricts political expression and intimidates its citizens, I would never have imagined seeing that happening here.” MORE>>>  

10. GLITORIS — THE SLUT POWER SESSIONS: LIVE AT THE BASEMENT

As women worldwide continued to bear the brunt of the pandemic, protests broke out in Poland on November 6 against the government's ban on abortions. “It’s patriotic to point out all the wrongdoings of the ruling party, and to hope for a better future," said Polish rap star Taco Hemingway, who is facing a backlash for making his music more political. "It’s actually unpatriotic to just accept everything and take a beating.” Back in Australia, where abortion has still not been decriminalised across the country, the sexism of politicians in the workplace was exposed on November 9, just days after feminist Canberra punks Glitoris released their barnstorming new live album. Opener "Warriors" screams: "Hey you, keeping your mates in high places so the leaders look the same, so little girls looking to those high places learn that it’s not for them ... We will take you down." LISTEN>>>

This column is taking a break and will return at the end of January.


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 media hailed as "edgy, daring and new". You can download the deluxe version free for a limited time here.

Stream our new "Protest albums of 2020" playlist on Spotify hereThis 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.

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."