10 new political albums worth a listen: February 2015

February 24, 2015
War on Women's self-titled debut album.

Here's this month's radical record round-up, from songs for warriors to chants for socialists. What album, or albums, would you suggest? Comment below, on Twitter or Facebook.


As soldiers from the Women's Protection Unit in Kobane were still celebrating their victory over ISIS at the start of this month, War On Women released their debut album containing a lyric that could have been penned especially for the occasion. Over artillery-heavy guitars, singer Shawna Potter screams: "If you take up arms to kill the men who want to kill you, we salute you! We are not weak, we are brave! It’s you who should be afraid!" In fact the song, "Diana La Cazadora" is about the hundreds of women who have been killed since 1993 in the northern Mexican region of Ciudad Juárez - just one more front in the worldwide physical, psychological and economical war on women. The powerful album somehow manages to go one better their stonking, sexist-slapping debut EP, whose song "Effemimania" called for "the same kinds of united efforts across and beyond gender lines collectively represented by the two women and three men in War On Women". http://bit.ly/1DNpXJ1


As Greece's newly-elected SYRIZA government went into battle this month against the "troika" of the European Commission, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank, New York punks Leftover Crack offered up a soundtrack that was right on the money. On the 10th anniversary reissue of their 2005 album Fuck World Trade, "Super Tuesday" declares: "The World Bank and the IMF have created a system of modern-day colonialism to make the people in the developing world poorer and the multinational corporations richer - and take the power away from all of us. It's time to back control of our lives and tear apart these monuments to greed and build our new world from the broken pieces." PunkNews.org said whereas the original 53-minute album was merely "a perfect record", the 73-minute reissue is a "masterpiece". Few critics said the same of the album's artwork, which has all the subtlety of a storefront-smashing sledgehammer. http://bit.ly/1AoVa2j


Showing what will happen to the world if the IMF continues to get its way are hardcore heretics Stick To Your Guns, with their new album Disobedient. The bleak, polluted world that plays out in their animated lyric video for "What Choice Did You Give Us" spells out the words: "Look what we've done, we've created a fate that we will never outrun. Time to change the path, or be forced to forever live with what can never be undone." The band have been strong supporters of the Occupy movement and its spirit burns throughout the album in songs like "Revolutionary Mental Attitude". Vocalist Jesse Barnett says: "With the direction the world is going, I think that this scene and our society as a whole calls for something more. Not just positive thinking but revolutionary thinking. It calls for inward revolution so that there may be an outward evolution." http://bit.ly/1vuANQY


Also riffing on a polluted world, though in a less aggressive way, are Baltimore indie rockers The Outer Spaces with their new album Garbage Beach. On the title track, singer Cara Beth Satalino gently chides: "Jump off the rope with me, into the water, down at garbage beach, lay in the sand, with the broken bottles and the soda cans." But on "Civilization's Dying" she gets more serious: "Civilisation's dying. We keep being reminded, the rich get fat and scratch each other's backs in the setting sun. Civilisation's dying. Throw a party to commemorise it. They'll steal the last red cent from your bloody hands, when the dealing is done. We'll be buried in debt, even after we're dead. They'll take the shirt off your back, and the sheets from your bed. Our tomb stones all will read, 'Been repossessed', from the shirt off your back to the sheets on your bed." http://bit.ly/1BLwUcQ


There have been quite a few post-punk band reformations in recent years, from Gang Of Four to Magazine, but none have managed to return as a better version of their former selves. Enter legendary experimental band The Pop Group, who could have cashed in by continuing where they left off 35 years ago, but have instead reinvented themselves yet again under the tutelage of - wait for it - Coldplay producer Paul Epworth. Don't stop reading just yet. Epworth has long been a fan of frontman Mark Stewart's unconventional studio techniques and Citizen Zombie revels in Stewart's radically leftfield production and radical leftist politics. On the title track, the widely-read Stewart blasts the unconnected state of a constantly connected world: "With heads bowed in devotion to the neon gods they made, a savage messiah that will never save. Citizen Zombie." The only possible distraction from Stewart's captivating lyrics is the quirky complexity of the music. Catch them live next month. http://bit.ly/1BjUhdS


More sonically soothing is Chants For Socialists, a concept folk album by Hefner frontman Darren Hayman. In 2012, Hayman came across a photocopied booklet titled Chants For Socialists in the Walthamstow, London museum of 19th century novelist and social activist William Morris. He returned to that museum to record parts of this album with a choir of left-leaning locals - and the finished product finally came out this month. "I saw these as ‘emergency’ protest songs, something to draw on in times of strife," says Hayman. "I think we are in troubled times. I regard these as useful lyrics. They make me feel young again. They remind of the hope I had in the Red Wedge movement, and how politicised I was around the 1984 miner’s strike." The pay-what-you-want album is a fine addition to his occasional political output, which includes his well-known celebratory 2006 song, "The Day That Thatcher Dies". http://bit.ly/1abfkDr


As Aboriginal Housing Company CEO Mick Mundine prepared to slap an eviction notice on the Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy this month, Perry Keyes released an album all about the displacement of inner-Sydney's poor. In the 1960s and 1970s, Keyes' own extended family were among more than 150,000 people moved out to Green Valley near Liverpool and the satellite suburbs around Blacktown and Campbelltown – Shalvey, Bidwill, St Marys, Blackett, Minto, Claymore, Airds and Macquarie Fields. In the style of early Bruce Springsteen, this gritty, poetic album tells bleak and poignant tales of the intergenerational poverty that followed. Song titles such as "Shitville", "The Abbatoir Sky" and "Home Is Where The Heart Disease Is" speak for themselves. In a twist on current events, Keyes once noted of his early childhood years: "We lived in Hugo Street, Redfern in what is now ‘the Block’ until [former PM Gough] Whitlam gave the streets to the Aboriginal Housing Company." http://bit.ly/1GnYDPs


Hyper-activist rapper Sole has started a new record label, Black Box Tapes, "to create a music entity focused around a certain kind of radical politics", as he puts it. It kicked off at the start of this month with The Shape Of Things To Come, a compilation album that sets the scene with experimental instrumentals and bass heavy hip-hop from the likes of Walter Gross and Prayers For Atheists' Jared Paul. On "Coathanger 18" Paul raps: "The United States Of Israel bombing hospitals in Lebanon with no right. Logically ridiculous hypocrites killing women and claiming they're pro-life." Sole says of the label: "I’m going to try my hardest to not rely on systems that are hostile to our interests. So our music will not be available in Spotify or any streaming audio sites." However, the first album is free, as is a funny and revealing interview Sole recently did with vegan-anarchist podcast Which Side. http://bit.ly/1LBgHIR


This month 160 years ago in Victoria, the first trial started for 13 diggers on charges of high treason after the Eureka Rebellion, in which goldminers revolted against Britain's colonial authority. All were rapidly acquitted, sparking wild celebrations and ushering in the Electoral Act 1856, seen by some as the birth of democracy in Australia. Prolific US singer-songwriter David Rovics, who is a frequent visitor to Australia and strong Green Left Weekly supporter, tells a potted history of the whole rebellion on his 2010 album Ten Thousand Miles Away, which has just been released on bandcamp. On "Song For The Eureka Stockade", Rovics sings: "The diggers may have lost the battle, but they quickly won the day. And those shots fired in Victoria were heard 10,000 miles away." The album features the Eureka flag on its cover, now a widely recognised symbol of rebellion and union strength. http://bit.ly/18h6zqQ


They Might Be Giants are famous for many things: experimentation, TV work, film soundtracks - and children's music that has racked up millions of sales simply by not driving parents insane. But their "supreme political statement" is their song "Your Racist Friend", which seethes: "This is where the party ends. I can't stand here listening to you and your racist friend. I know politics bore you, but I feel like a hypocrite talking to you and your racist friend." Singer John Lansburgh explains: "This song is really wrapped up in the problem of tacit agreement, and the line 'Can't shake the devil's hand and say you're only kidding' just sums it up." Fitting, then, that it is found on their latest album, Flood Live In Australia, which is a recording of them performing their biggest-selling album, Flood, in its entirety. Even if you don't recognise "Your Racist Friend" you may find yourself nodding along to "Minimum Wage" or mega-hit "Birdhouse In Your Soul". Try it - the album is a free download. http://bit.ly/1MNph8Z

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See also: 52 left-leaning albums from 2014

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