10 powerful new albums that scream truth to power

Protest music from September 2021 album artwork

Here's a look back at September's political news and the best new music that related to it. You can also listen to a podcast of this column, including an 11-year-old schoolkid giving his verdict on all the albums, here.


On September 1, Afghanistan's new governing warlords, the Taliban, were able to claim the moral high ground over Australia by pointing to Australian war crimes in their country. An apt soundtrack is the latest EP from Melbourne punks Cutters. On its title track, "Australian War Crimes", they sing: "This is the opposite of nostalgia, a sick distaste for the fatherland. The Australian Special Air Service murders prisoners in Afghanistan." On September 15, Australia's moral standing in the world sank further as Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a multibillion-dollar nuclear submarines deal with the US and Britain that scrapped an agreement with France, enraging that country. US President Joe Biden seemed to forget Morrison's name as he thanked "that fellow Down Under" for the move, inspiring little confidence that it was worth risking war with China for. LISTEN>>>    


The Australian Workers' Union took Australia's nuclear submarines deal as an opportunity to call for the scrapping of the country's ban on nuclear energy. The call showed a typical lack of respect for Australia's Aboriginal people, who — like indigenous people worldwide — are leading the fight against environmental destruction. Notably absent from the submarines deal was New Zealand, despite its former military alliance with those in the partnership. A likely reason was the huge opposition to nuclear power in NZ, a nation which shows slightly more respect for its indigenous people. An example of that respect came in Kiwi pop superstar Lorde's new EP on September 9, sung in Maori to celebrate Maori language week. But outshining even that was the anti-colonial new album from Maori thrash metallers Alien Weaponry, which bristles with the power of an All Blacks haka. LISTEN>>>


On September 17, Australian Aboriginal musician Emma Donovan released her new album, which calls for gender equality on the track "No Woman Left Behind". The album came after the Australian government implemented only a fraction of the recommendations in a report by its Sex Discrimination Commissioner. It did so despite Australian women dying at a rate of one to two every week from violence perpetrated by a current or ex-partner and the rate of violence and sexual assault being far higher for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children than for non-indigenous women. On September 1, former attorney-general Christian Porter blocked media outlets from publishing parts of his defence in his case against the Australian Broadcasting Corporation for ultimately revealing he was accused of rape. He then revealed his defence had been funded by a blind trust. LISTEN>>>


On September 19, Christian Porter was forced to resign as a Cabinet Minister over his revelation that his legal fees had been paid by a blind trust. But his crusade against transparency found an echo in Britain, where the government was accused of "wasting time and taxpayers’ money" after spending half a million pounds on legal challenges to prevent Freedom of Information releases, it was reported on September 21. Summing up such Orwellian moves was the new album from leftist Welsh rockers The Manic Street Preachers. On lead single "Orwellian", they sing: "We live in Orwellian times. It feels impossible to pick a side. Insanities that dance and hide. The truth becomes a broken lie. Everywhere you look, everywhere you turn, the future fights the past, the books begin to burn." On September 17, the insanely catchy record became their first No.1 album in 23 years. LISTEN>>> 


Hitting back at the British government was the flawless new album from folk artist Sean Taylor, who rails against the kind of coronavirus disparity that has been going on worldwide. On its opening track, he says: "The sick and the poor are disposable. Stay at home if you are rich, die at work if you are poor. The lowest paid jobs have the highest death rates. Those who never stopped working, the un-furloughed poor. The construction workers, cabbies, security guards, transport workers, teachers, nurses, carers, delivery drivers and supermarket staff. Workers from every country, vilified by the racists as ‘unskilled migrants’. Now as we are fighting for our lives, exploited migrants become key workers. If you can applaud the NHS and carers, why do you keep voting Tory?" If you're looking for a quality album that addresses everything that's wrong in the world, this is it. LISTEN>>> 


As anti-vaxxers worldwide protested against coronavirus jabs, queer US punks The Muslims hit back with their new album, Fuck These Fuckin Fascists, on September 24. On "Coronavirus", they scream: "Scary, scary times, to barely be alive. It's not left or right, we just want to mosh tonight. Please hold your sneeze, hold your kids, hold your breath when you're next to me. I gotta get shot with this vaccine, cuz I just wanna have shots again." Equally incendiary is "Illegals", which turns US racism against non-white immigrants on its head with the words: "You come here for free land and freedom. You fuckin' immigrants fuck it up for everyone. Now they’re having kids, now they need a job. Take a look around, they’re taking everything we got. Now it’s time to call them out. No one’s illegal but white people. No one’s illegal but whitey, whitey, whitey." LISTEN>>>   


The Muslims' album railing against white immigrants came as US Border Patrol agents chased Haitian immigrants on horseback, raising accusations that Joe Biden's Democratic government was no different from that of his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump. Further south, Colombian duo Bomba Estereo released their new album on September 10, which blasts the kind of environmental destruction that is creating climate refugees worldwide. At a sacred site in the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta — snow-capped mountains on Colombia’s Caribbean coast — the pair asked a mamo, a shaman of the indigenous Arhuaco people, to record a message for the public, which became the final words on the album. Speaking in Arhuaco, the mamo calls for preservation of the endangered environment, warning about climate change and concluding: “On this Earth, our duty is to take care of Mother Nature.” LISTEN>>>


Slamming the environmental destruction in Colombia's neighbour, Ecuador, is the new album from US protest singer David Rovics. On "When Chevron Came to Ecuador", the long-time activist blasts the US invasion with the words: "When Chevron came to Ecuador — it was Texaco back then — they did there what they did so many times again. An ocean of sludge, stored in pits unlined. No stone unturned, no resources unmined. They call it the Chernobyl of the Amazon, a thousand square miles dead and gone." And on the album's opening track, "116 Degrees", which brings a fuller sound rarely heard in Rovics' stripped-back music, he addresses the global implications: "Blinken is bombing Baghdad, there's a famine in Tigray. Fires are burning in Flagstaff, blocking out the day. The wind blows so fiercely, the grass is turning brown, and it's 116 degrees in Portland town." LISTEN>>> 


Also slamming such capitalist destruction is the new album from rabble-rousing Australian punks Amyl & The Sniffers, which was greeted with acclaim worldwide. On "Capital", singer Amy Taylor yells: "Australia is burning, but, aye, I’m not learning how to be more conscious. And the farmers hope for rain while the landscape torches ... First port of call should be changing the date and changing the flag. Of course I have disdain for this place, what are you thinking? You took their kids and you locked them up, up in a prison. It’s just for capital. Am I an animal? And do I care at all? Capital, capital. I’m just an animal." Discussing the song, she said: "‘Capital’ is about how many people are left on the outskirts of society without any help — especially none from fucking Scott Morrison, the absolute tosser.” LISTEN>>>


One person who paved the way for bands as explosive as Amyl & The Sniffers is Serj Tankian. The Beirut-born poet, singer and activist's classical soundtrack to a new documentary about himself was released just days before Amyl & The Sniffers' new album. Truth To Power tells how Tankian, with his band System Of A Down, made political music hugely popular. It came as the prolific artist released another soundtrack to new documentary I Am Not Alone, and just months after he released a new EP of poetry that mixes the political with the personal. “I don’t just write about one topic,” he said. “Whether it’s through my solo work or with System, that’s always been the case. You’ve got funny stuff, stream of consciousness stuff and then socio-political songs that are as serious as a heart attack." LISTEN>>>

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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 the first single from his new album based on protest chants. You can download it 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 700 albums.

Read about more political albums here.

Stream Green Left TV's political music playlist here.

Listen to this column as a podcast here.

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