Looking for 2021's best protest music? Here are 10 albums

Protest albums from November 2021

Here's a look back at November'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.


On November 5, environmental activist Greta Thunberg slammed the COP26 climate summit of world leaders in Glasgow. Addressing a crowd of 30,000, she said: "The people in power can continue to live in their bubble, filled with fantasies like eternal growth on a finite planet and technological solutions that will suddenly appear." On the same day, Melbourne political punks Dr Sure's Unusual Practice released their new album, which opens with the song "Infinite Growth". "Chasing infinite growth on a balance sheet, but there’s no infinite growth on the coral reef," they sing. "Chasing infinite growth in dirty energy, but there’s no infinite growth if it’s clean and free." Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison then refused to join other COP26 countries signing up to reduce methane emissions, declaring "can-do capitalism, not don’t-do governments" would save the planet. LISTEN>>>


Taking Morrison to task were Dr Sure's Unusual Practice's fellow Melbourne punks, The Social Surgeons, with their new album, Where The Bloody Hell Are Ya? Named after Tourism Australia's widely-ridiculed advertising slogan when Morrison was its managing director, the album was released on November 24, National Tourism Day. It has plenty of laughs, but also some serious truths. On "Talk & Walk", singer Juan Ofmany addresses Australia's Prime Minister directly with the repeated refrain: "You're talking shit!" On "Future Generations' Right Of Reply" he blasts current leaders with the words: "We're dead. You fucked it all and now we're dead." And on "Frontier Wars", he slams the colonists' pillaging of Aboriginal land with the words: "Massacres were common as settlers stole the land. A Lutruwita blood bath, frontier wars!". LISTEN>>>    


Also skewering the land stealers were Butchulla rapper Birdz - with his new album, released on November 19 - and his Yuin label mate Nooky, with his LP released a week later. On "Aussie Aussie" Birdz raps: "We just want to get our fuckin' land back." Talking about the song, he said: "There’s something powerful about the juxtaposition of the light-hearted music and lyrics that address the harsh realities Blakfullas are forced to endure on a daily basis - Blak deaths in custody, police brutality, institutionalised racism." Nooky's album hits hard with modern trap beats. Birdz's album spans the centuries, from the time Captain Cook was first spotted off the coast, all the way to Cook's lasting legacy in "Know Your Truth". That song, said Birdz, explores "how Australia’s violent past continues to haunt our present with over-incarceration rates and child removal". LISTEN>>> 


On November 3, little was said about white Australia stealing Aboriginal children when a missing four-year-old white girl was found in the home of an Indigenous man. The fact the man had been raised by an Aboriginal woman who had her children taken from her also received little coverage. Such dispossession results in social dysfunction. As Aboriginal activist Cathy Eatock once put it: "Violence in Aboriginal communities is an expression of the violence inflicted on recent generations, from invasion, dispossession and the continuing oppression and marginalisation experienced by Aboriginal people." Addressing such issues is the new EP from Birdz and Nooky's label mate, Kobie Dee. On the song "About A Girl", he hits back at domestic violence with the words, "what her friends don’t know is what this girl won’t show, all the bruises on her body from her boyfriend, yo". LISTEN>>>



One white Australian who has been subject to the kind of government abuse normally reserved for Aboriginal people is WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. On November 20, as Assange languished in London's Belmarsh prison under the threat of US extradition, US musician Jesse Jett released his new spoken word album, which praises the publisher. On "Conviction: Winter In Belmarsh" he seethes: "All that we can hope is that we can catch uncle Joe in a fleeting lucid moment of his flickering senile fascist mission. That maybe we could trick him into thinking Julian is just some sweet blonde middle school Christian and she got mixed up with a few bad apples, slapped with some charges and thrown into prison. Joe would set him free without a moment's hesitation under one condition: That he could sniff her hair before she goes back to school and he goes back to business." LISTEN>>>


On November 19, Bruce Springsteen, who played at Joe Biden's inauguration, released his new live album and film, The Legendary 1979 No Nukes Concerts. Before these concerts, which marked Springsteen's first foray into political activism, he had always refused to be filmed, since he feared seeing himself perform would make him lose his ability to do it. Instead, the film showed the world what a dynamic performer he was. It also marked the debut of his song "The River", which would not appear on the album of the same name for another year. The song contains the lyric: "Is a dream a lie if it don't come true, or is it something worse?" Springsteen has always said his music represents the gap between the "American Dream" and reality. That reality is hammered home by his very public friendship with Barack Obama, who increased America's nuclear arsenal when he was president. LISTEN>>>


On November 9, Greenland said "no nukes" as it passed a law reinstating the country's ban on the prospecting, exploration and exploitation of uranium, which had been lifted in 2013. The act was expected to stop a uranium mining project at Kvanefjeld, owned by Australian mining company Greenland Minerals. Two days later in Malaysia, which has also been subjected to Australian uranium mining, punks No Good released their new album. The trio sing about the “unsavoury” aspects of life in their east coast state of Kelantan, which is more rural and poor than much of the country. On their debut EP, they hit out at the “preaching for politics” of the “semutar-wearing red beards” who “go back and forth clutching the Qur’an”. And with the new record, they continue to broach taboo topics such as religious hypocrisy and Malaysians’ distorted relationship with their royalty. LISTEN>>>  


On November 14, Australia's meddling in other nations was in the spotlight again, as families spoke out before an inquiry into the suicides of Australian soldiers dispatched to Afghanistan. Four days earlier, Canadian musician Dennis MacKenzie released his new album, which documents his traumatic experiences as an Afghanistan war veteran. On "Letter 2" he says: "My boss tells me that P.T.S.D is not real, so if anyone admits to having it then they are fakers and just trying to get time off so they are shamed and kicked out of the military." And on "Letter 3" he laments: "I’ve now lost more friends to suicide than I lost during the Afghanistan war, but no one talks about that." A week later, various artists released Action For Afghanistan, a fundraising album to benefit the Afghans themselves. It is they, of course, who are the most traumatised people from the war. LISTEN>>> 


Days earlier, former US politician Anthony Davis released his new album, which takes aim at Donald Trump, who made a deal with The Taliban to pull out of Afghanistan. The album is broadly themed around America's mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic. But on "Orange Man, Strange World", Davis takes on the voice of Trump as he sings: "I'll tear down the system you got because I wanna. I'll destroy this whole fucking world because I'm gonna. I'll bring back the hate and the pain cause I oughta. I'll lie and I'll lie and I'll lie and I'll lie because I'm gonna. Cause I'm an orange man in a strange world." On the same day, pop star pianist Tori Amos also released an album excoriating Trump, days before a Trump-backed candidate was elected as Virginia's governor. The victory came after intellectual Noam Chomsky warned: "Four more years of Trumpism might well tip the balance." LISTEN>>>


On November 25, Trump called Kyle Rittenhouse a "really nice young man" after the teenager was acquitted of murdering two white men and injuring another during protests over a white police officer shooting a Black man last year. Rittenhouse had visited Trump's Mar-A-Lago estate and posed for a photo with the former president. After Rittenhouse was found not guilty, political rock group Rage Against The Machine fumed that he had “killed people who were fighting for racial justice”. On November 12, radical jazz group Irreversible Entanglements, who formed after the New York police killed Caribbean immigrant Akai Gurley, released their new LP. That came a week after the release of The Brkn Record's new album, which the musician calls "a singular and urgent chronicle of the black British experience". The record features his fellow activists slamming police brutality. 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 month, Mat Ward released the third single from his new album based on protest chants, Why I Protest. You can download it free for a limited time.

Stream our new "Protest albums of 2021" playlist on Spotify. This replaces the previous "Political albums" playlist, that was getting too big at more than 700 albums.

Read about more political albums.

Stream Green Left TV's political music playlist.

Listen to this column as The 10 Best Political Albums Of The Month podcast.

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."

Download Mat Ward's political music albums free for a limited time.