10 new protest albums to fuel Extinction Rebellion

October 30, 2019
Political albums October 2019

In a month when Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists rose up all over the world, there was plenty of new music providing inspiration. Here are the best new albums that relate to this month's political news. There are actually more than 10 - count them. What albums would you suggest? Comment on TwitterFacebook, or email


At the start of the month, Australian activists toured the Darling River, where the appalling life expectancy of Aboriginal communities is being worsened by their water and power being cut off. The personal pain of loss in Aboriginal communities looms large on the new album by Yuin rapper Nooky, released on October 11, which documents the devastating death of his cousin, among others. The loss sent Nooky into a spiral of intoxication, but he managed to emerge on the other side with this triumphant record. The rapper and acclaimed producer likens the experience to a local creation story from his hometown of Nowra, south of Sydney. “The white cockatoo, Nyalwal, flew through fire and was badly hurt, injured and burned … but he made it out the other side,” Nooky said. "As he was flying over the river, he noticed his reflection and was horrified at what he saw, but when he returned to his community, the people celebrated him." MORE>>>


When Aboriginal activist Bruce Shillingsworth returned to Sydney after organising the activists' tour of the crisis-hit Darling River, he hit headlines as part of the Extinction Rebellion protests that kicked off on October 7. The week of worldwide rallies brought an inevitable backlash from governments and the media. Thom Yorke, David Byrne and Lily Allen were among musicians called “hypocrites” for supporting XR due to their lifestyles involving world travel. “Dear journalists who have called us hypocrites,” they responded. “You’re right. We live high carbon lives and the industries that we are part of have huge carbon footprints. Like you — and everyone else — we are stuck in this fossil-fuel economy and without systemic change, our lifestyles will keep on causing climate and ecological harm." Other musicians responded with fund-raising albums and remixes of the defiant UN speech by 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg. LISTEN>>> 


Brazilian musicians speaking out against climate-wrecking president Jair Bolsonaro included female duo Rakta. “Being a woman and occupying a space in the Brazilian music scene is a social and political act in and of itself,” they said, adding that, in Brazil, a woman is murdered every two hours. For them, Bolsonaro, who opposes gender equality and once taunted a female congresswoman that she was “unworthy of rape”, is an open manifestation of Brazil’s history of misogyny. Their sprawling city of São Paulo, meanwhile, offers the “complete raw and hard duality of being a human in a capitalist society”. Many of their fellow outspoken musicians were inspired by the Brazilian protests of 2013 that started against a hike in transport fees, just as protests in Chile did this month. The Chilean protests came amid a rise in political unrest across Latin America, including in Ecuador and Bolivia. MORE>>>


Bolsonaro is known as the "Trump of the tropics", but it was the real Donald Trump that led Canadian musician Neil Young to declare he was finally becoming a United States citizen this month. Speaking about his new climate-themed album released on October 25, Young said he was taking the oath because “I’ll be able to vote". "We’ve got a climate emergency, and governments are not acting,” he said. On "Shut It Down", he sings: "Have to shut the whole system down. They're all wearing climate change as cool as they can be ... Start again and build it for eternity." On "Green Is Blue" he sings: "We heard the warning calls, ignored them. We saw the weather change, we saw the fire and floods. We saw the people rise, divided. We fought each other while we lost our coveted prize." And on “She Showed Me Love", he sings: “I’ve seen old white guys trying to kill Mother Nature ... I've seen young folks fighting to save Mother Nature.” Those folks include Trump-baiting teens the Honey Hahs. LISTEN>>>  


Also fighting back is long-time activist La Neve, who released her political indie disco album The Vital Cord on October 14. La Neve, who also goes by the name Joey DeFrancesco in the political punk band Downtown Boys, said: "It’s hard for the institutional industry to pay attention to people who look and present like this and make politicised music. It’s a constant fight, but there's inspiring stuff all over the place... You’re seeing protesting and action now on a level I haven’t seen before. What’s happening now with the climate protests, Black Lives Matter ... and the socialist movement... a lot of this is inspiring and led by young people ... Coming from my background as a labour organiser, it’s been so clear that queer, trans, and labour rights are all intersecting, and the labour movement must take the fight for queer rights seriously because we’re all workers. If we’re not serious about fighting for all of us, it weakens every other movement." MORE>>>


Kurdish people have been fighting to the death for such rights in their battle against ISIS, yet they were abandoned by the US on October 8, sparking an invasion by Turkish forces. On October 11, British musician Lee Brickley — who recently released a strong album about the Kurdish fighters in Rojava — published a Facebook post about the conflict that went viral. "The people there live under a system called Democratic Confederalism which is based on workers’ rights, equality, feminism, and ecology," he wrote. "In principal, this version of democracy is far more democratic than any system used in a Western country today... The Kurdish people just can’t win. Every major global power uses them when it suits their agenda, and then they feed them to the wolves. The US won’t stand up for the Kurds. The Syrian government won’t stand up for them, and neither will Iran or Russia. That's why every single person with a heart reading this must raise their voice now!" LISTEN>>> 


While promoting Refused's aptly-titled new album last month, the band's singer, Dennis Lyxzén, said: "We have this system set up — this capitalist dream that we want to export to Syria and the rest of the world — but people in America and Europe suffer from mental illness and fatigue and poverty. It’s a system that we can’t afford to live in, but we still want to force it on everybody." Discussing the music on Refused's blisteringly heavy new album, the revered musician added: "I think the violence of the record, the propulsion of the record ... there's a sense of desperation to it, and I think it does capture the mood of the world right now in a lot of ways.

We managed to put out a pretty savvy representation of the turmoil that we live in right now. While it's a good thing to capture that, it's a bit of a sad thing that we will have to continue to try to capture that. But yeah, I think it captures of the vibe of 2019–2020, for better or worse." MORE>>> 


Taking a more lighthearted approach to the global turmoil was musician Rhodri Marsden, with his mercifully succinct disco album about the never-ending Brexit negotiations. Released as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson limbered up for an electoral battle with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Article 54's The Hustle is both funnier and more successful than Britain's bungling PM. Writing about it, Marsden said: "I set about shoehorning the modern-day saga of Brexit into 35 minutes, using Chic-style guitars, disco strings and a chorus of four women (including my long-suffering girlfriend) ... With the uncertainty of Brexit having caused me no end of anxiety, this labour-intensive task worked out cheaper than cognitive behavioural therapy ... Of course, none of these songs  mine, nor anyone else’s — will change the world. As a form of mild protest, they either serve to remind listeners that they’re not alone with their feelings about Brexit — or, conversely, to wind them up." MORE>>> 


On October 22, Australia's Sky News tried to wind up New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern by reporting that she'd called shock jock Alan Jones — who recently suggested she should be assaulted — a "git". But as website Junkee pointed out, she'd done so in 2012 after a tribunal found that Alan Jones incited the Cronulla race riots and he also said the father of Australia's first female PM, Julia Gillard, died of shame. Far to the left of Ardern are Kiwi folk-punks Whisky And The Wench, who launched their new album two days later, on October 24. "Politics is a big part of what Whiskey and the Wench is all about," they said. "Hard-line, anti-capitalist, anti-racist, anti-sexist, leftists." Asked about the recent local elections in their hometown of Dunedin, they said though "electoral politics is insufficient",  "Aaron Hawkins' win for mayor — the first ever Green Party mayor in the country — that could be a very good thing for Dunedin and the New Zealand left." LISTEN>>> 


Embodying the disappointment many people feel with electoral politics was Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the one-time golden boy who was fighting for his political life as he went to the polls on October 22. The oil pipeline-supporting Trudeau had been hit by multiple scandals, including photos of him dressed in blackface and accounts of him bullying an indigenous female minister on behalf of big business. In the run-up to the election, indigenous musician Adrian Sutherland released protest song "Politician Man" after his Cree community declared a state of emergency over contaminated water, reminiscent of Australia's water crisis. It followed the new album from Toronto-based grunge musician Kanada Day, which proclaims: "Your food is made of poison. Your water dulls your mind. Your credit cards are all maxed out. You crave the tie that binds. The Silent Weapons are loaded. Armed by our hands. Take a look all around you. This is a business plan." LISTEN>>>


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mat Ward has been writing for Green Left Weekly 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 new album about surveillance and an EP with Aboriginal rapper Provocalz. Follow his artist page on Spotify here.

Stream our political albums playlist on Spotifyhere.

Read about more political albums here.

Stream Green Left TV's political music playlist here.

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