Political music: 11 of the best new albums - and why you should hear them

September 26, 2015

Here's this month's radical record round-up, which actually features more than 20 albums (count them). What album, or albums, would you suggest? Comment below, on Twitter or Facebook.

1. NERINA PALLOT - THE SOUND AND THE FURY

At the start of the month, a photo of drowned Kurdish toddler Alan Kurdi went viral, unleashing empathy for asylum seekers worldwide. Among those to react were musicians including Crowded House, who re-released "Help Is Coming" to raise funds. Welsh artists also banded together to put out the 30-track compilation Welsh Rock For Refugees. It included Gwenno, whose politically-charged Welsh language album also came out recently. But one artist speaking out for refugees before Kurdi's death was Nerina Pallot, whose video clip for "The Road" features refugees trying to cross from France into Britain. With a half-French father and an Indian mother, Pallot is the beautiful result of multicultural immigration herself. She has a son not much older than Kurdi, but on the song "If I Had A Girl", she imagines she had a daughter instead, singing: "If I wear my skirt short, don't mean I don't have a brain. And if cover myself from head to toe, don't mean that I'm in chains." MORE>>>

2. DAVID ROVICS - THE OTHER SIDE

The family of drowned toddler Alan Kurdi were fleeing their hometown of Kobane, whose women soldiers have hit headlines worldwide for resisting ISIS attacks. Just days before Kurdi's death, US singer-songwriter David Rovics released his latest album, featuring a song dedicated to the city. On "Kobane" he sings: "A city full of Kurdish people divided from the rest. Cut off to the east, forsaken by the West. The only sensible thing to do was run away. But instead thousands stood and fought. Kobane." Kurdish pop star Helly Luv took things a step further, firing a missile straight at ISIS as she filmed the video for her new song "Revolution" near Mosul in Kurdistan. As for those caught in the crossfire worldwide, US rapper Sole spits on his album released this month: "We plead for water they feed us sand. We demand land but there is none. Except over there where no one is allowed to roam. Borders enforced by gunpoint. For every citizen a guard. For every non-citizen, two guards." MORE>>>

3. REGIME - PUSH

After socialist Jeremy Corbyn became the new leader of Britain's Labour Party in a shock landslide win on September 12, the first thing he did was attend a rally for refugees. Two days later he refused to sing "God Save The Queen" at a Battle Of Britain memorial and was pilloried by the press, who seemed as unable as ever to join the dots between the Royals' promotion of the British arms industry, imperialistic wars and refugees. It could have been worse, Corbyn could have been singing the words to "Queenie" from this year's album by British rappers Regime: "She's an arms dealer, she's got a lot of funds. And a gun shotter, she's shot a lot of guns. And a bomb seller, big player on the scene, saying God save us all from that mean old Queen." John Lydon, who gave the words "God Save The Queen" a whole new twist with the Sex Pistols four decades ago, also showed he'd lost none of his subversive sense of a good tune with his new Public Image Limited album, released on September 4. MORE>>>

4. FUN 'DA' MENTAL - A PHILOSOPHY OF NOTHING

The first full-length album in nearly a decade by British Asian soundclash specialists Fun 'Da' Mental, released just a fortnight after Alan Kurdi's drowning, proved disturbingly timely in referencing drowning refugees. The lyrics to "Colour Of Rain" say: "This is for the mothers that scream and cry. This is for the child that never sees the light. This is for the broken man lying across the sea. And this is for me and you. Never to fall and die." In a revealing radio interview to promote the album, provocative Pakistani band leader Aki Nawaz talked right through his career, from his punk days drumming with Southern Death Cult to forming Fun 'Da' Mental in just seven days, becoming a globe-trotting documentary maker and being visited by MI5. He insists he's "a crap musician with great ideas", but Fun 'Da' Mental also have huge tunes, from the incendiary "Wrath Of The Black Man" two decades ago, to the infectious "War Again" on the new album. MORE>>>

5. PUBLIC ENEMY - LIVE FROM METROPOLIS STUDIOS

Fun 'Da' Mental are often referred to as "the Asian Public Enemy", but the real Public Enemy also released a new album this month, which is equally scathing about border control. Released on September 4, it captures the rap legends playing a one-off intimate gig to just 125 people in the London studios where Amy Winehouse recorded Back To Black. Introducing the track "Shut 'Em Down", Chuck D says: "I'm an Earthizen... I'm not a citizen of any damn government... One world, one people, one earth. And if anyone denies that shit, we're gonna shut 'em down." Multi-instrumentalist Flavor Flav excels on his emergency number parody track "911 Is A Joke", which has taken on a whole new meaning since the attacks of September 11, 2001 - or 9/11. Just a week after the album's release, as most of the Western media were rolling out the usual 9/11 memorials, investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed pointed out that in terms of deaths, the US has meted out "a thousand 9/11s" since 9/11. MORE>>>

6. PARIS - PISTOL POLITICS

Public Enemy collaborator Paris deliberately chose September 11 as the release date for his radical new double album on his own label, Guerrilla Funk. "I created Guerrilla Funk right after the terror attacks of 9/11," he says. "It was initially started as a safe haven for artists who found that many creative outlets were no longer available to them because of the wave of fear-induced 'pseudo patriotism' at the time." Paris went on to send up the infamous Ku Klux Klan film Birth Of A Nation on his collaborative Guerrilla Funk album with Public Enemy, Rebirth Of A Nation. DJ Spooky revisited the theme this month with his album of the same name. But Paris has got Public Enemy's Chuck D back on his new album, which also includes many of his label signings, including powerful female duo The Conscious Daughters. If you like Paris's hard-hitting politics and super-heavy funk, you should also go local by checking out the whole back catalogue of Australian Aboriginal rapper Antwon. MORE>>>

7. MADDIE & TAE - START HERE

Showing all the sass of Guerrilla Funk's Conscious Daughters are Maddie & Tae, whose bro-country baiting anthem "Girl In A Country Song" gives patriarchy a kick in the pants. The song would no doubt elicit a smile from veteran activist and folk singer Judy Collins, whose new album of duets came out this month, including Irish language advocate Glen Hansard, who also released a new album at the same time. Promoting her album, Collins told USA Today that "activism is alive and well". As if to illustrate her point, Australian artist Essem and pals kicked off the "Sad Grrrls Club" album and tour this month with "non-male" line-ups across the country to counter the looming male-heavy festival season. But just as Maddie & Tae noted a backlash while promoting their album at the start of the month, The Sad Grrrls Tour has noted how similar festivals are copping naive claims of reverse-sexism in the US. As for the term "non-male", Sad Grrrls uses it as "gender is not simply a male-female binary". MORE>>>

8. AGAINST ME! - 23 LIVE SEX ACTS

One band who know "gender is not simply a male-female binary" are Florida punks Against Me!, whose singer Laura Jane Grace came out as transgender on their last album, Transgender Dysphoria Blues. The highlight of 23 Live Sex Acts, recorded live on the Transgender Dysphoria Blues tour, is when Grace stops the whole show to heckle a security guard who is trying to eject a fan. Released a couple of weeks before 23 Live Sex Acts was #SayYesToLove Vol. II, a follow-up album to a compilation released by Australian musicians to promote marriage equality. But if you like your queer music with more radical politics, check out Rizzla's new record Iron Cages, named after Max Weber's definition of capitalist bureaucracy and released on September 25. Although the EP projects his politics through the song titles rather than lyrics, Rizzla is a rarity in the generally apolitical dance music scene, ranting in interviews about "modern corporatised culture" and hailing Black revolutionaries. MORE>>>

9. THE SOULJAZZ ORCHESTRA - RESISTANCE

Also hailing Black revolutionaries are Canadian collective The Souljazz Orchestra, whose new album is inspired by the disco music of Francophone Africa - Coupé-Décalé, Zouglou, Ndombolo, Zouk, Compas - and the politics of Occupy and Black Lives Matter. "We wanted to express the deep sense of dissatisfaction with the status quo that we're feeling within the people and within ourselves," say the band. "It's obvious there's a real thirst for social justice and positive political change throughout the world today." A similarly powerful product of multicultural immigration are the London-based Owiny Sigoma Band, who travelled to the Kenyan homelands of two of their band members to make their new album. They started in Nairobi, which was under a cloud of oppression as an execution had just taken place, then headed out to Nyanza Province, where the locals dance all night to Luo music while glugging down a poisonous brew that translates as "Kill Me Quick". MORE>>>

10. D.O.A. - HARD RAIN FALLING

The Souljazz Orchestra's fellow Canadian, Naomi Klein, kicked off her Festival Of Dangerous Ideas talk in Sydney this month by noting how Indigenous people in Canada, Australia and elsewhere are on the frontlines of the fight for global climate action. The family of drowned toddler Alan Kurdi have been called climate refugees by those pointing to the worsened drought in the area they were fleeing. Kurdi's father has hit out at Stephen Harper's Canadian government for allegedly rejecting his family's asylum application. As Canada's election looms, one media outlet has compiled a semi-serious list of Canadian musicians who could do better than Harper, including D.O.A's Joey Shithead, who is a Green candidate. "Pipeline Fever" from D.O.A.'s new album shows he's probably too worthy for the job. Not making the list, but just as worthy, is Canadian folk singer Rachelle Van Zanten, who recently praised Indigenous people leading the fight against a pipeline that threatens her farm. MORE>>>

11. THE KILL - KILL THEM... ALL

Stephen Harper's political ally, "Australia's worst-ever Prime Minister" Tony Abbott, was replaced in a coup on September 15. A few days later, the new government, led by Malcolm "Tony Abbott with social skills" Turnbull, released a "Radicalisation Awareness Kit", which made the farcical claim that young people who listen to "alternative music" could be in danger of turning into dangerous radicals. Perhaps the report's authors had listened to the new album by Melbourne grindcore band The Kill, which seethes: "What a fucking goose. Absolute turkey. Such a bird brain. A fucking galah. A parasite. A germ. A virus. An Abbott." Cheer up Tony, at least you haven't had a song made about you fucking a dead pig's head. Yet. But the last word goes to Until Abbott Gets Gone, a band who formed to get rid of Abbott and said they'd split up when he went. Releasing their final song on his exit, they said: "We may have to start a protest folk band called 'Turnback Turnbull' or something!" Amen to that. MORE>>>

For more political albums, click here. For Green Left TV's political music playlist, click here.

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