Political music: 11 new albums you need to hear

August 27, 2015

Here's this month's radical record round-up, with an emphasis on Indigenous resistance. What album, or albums, would you suggest? Comment below, on Twitter or Facebook.

1. THE BASICS - THE AGE OF ENTITLEMENT

The month began with the long-awaited resignation of Liberal parliamentary speaker Bronwyn Bishop, who stepped down in a flurry of mocking memes after her extensive abuse of politicians' entitlements was exposed. The revelations highlighted the hypocrisy of Treasurer Joe Hockey's slogan that "the age of entitlement" was over. The timing couldn't have been better for The Basics, who had long scheduled their album The Age Of Entitlement to be released on August 14. The timing was also coincidental, but those who have seen The Basics live will know the Melbourne three-piece are masters of timing - musical and comic. However, "Time Poor" may strike a chord with anyone trying to somehow find the time to juggle family, work and activism. "Well what about basic human fucking rights then?" it asks, before the moaning refrain: "'I haven't got time for that!'" Elsewhere, in asking "Whatever Happened to the Working Class?" they mournfully weave in a lament for the Chilean protest song, "The workers, united, will never be defeated". MORE>>>

2. RUSSKAJA - PEACE LOVE & RUSSIAN ROLL

Russkaja take that same Chilean protest song and sing it in its original Spanish - "¡El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido!" - on their rollicking new album. But as they've never been sticklers for convention, the Swiss-based Russian ska band (yes, you read that right) give the song a whole new melody and mostly new lyrics. Peace Love & Russian Roll is the first of their four albums to get a worldwide release and the first to be sung mostly in English, but the band are used to playing for huge audiences, with a hard-earned reputation as festival favourites throughout Europe. Elsewhere on the album, Moscow expat Georgij Makazaria’s heavy accent and growling baritone is reminiscent of revolutionary Roma rock'n'rollers Gogol Bordello - especially when it's in full flight over the band's self-described "turbo polka" on radical rabble-rousers like "You Are The Revolution". MORE>>>

3. VARIOUS ARTISTS - REQUIEM FOR ARCTIC ICE

Also conjuring up images of the frozen Russian tundra is Greenpeace's Requiem For Arctic Ice. The album was released at the start of the month to coincide with a series of Titanic-themed orchestral performances to protest against Shell drilling for oil under the melting Arctic. Inspired by the string quartet that famously played as the Titanic went down, the month-long musical protest began with the Crystal Palace Quartet playing outside Shell’s offices in London. The music, which flows with the gliding beauty of melting glaciers, is as moving as the cause. But Shell and US president Barack Obama appeared unmoved. Just days later, the US government approved a bid from the oil giant to drill even deeper in the Arctic. In response, Greenpeace wrote: "This isn’t over. The president knows what’s at stake: his climate legacy.” As news broke a few days later of walruses having to beach themselves due to their Arctic ice sheets melting, Obama was preparing to travel to the Arctic - to lecture the world on climate change. MORE>>>

4. CATTLE DECAPITATION - THE ANTHROPOCENE EXTINCTION

The disastrous human effect on the planet and its climate has been so historically unusual that scientists now refer to the era as a new geological epoch, the "Anthropocene". Cue the latest album from Californian deathgrind band Cattle Decapitation, which they have called The Anthropocene Extinction. The group, who started out as an all-vegetarian band in 1996, often depict humans in the place of animals. The cover art for their latest long-player is no exception, showing plastic waste spilling from the ribs of a human carcass in the same way as that shown in photos of seabirds who have died after swallowing floating plastic trash. The band say: "With The Anthropocene Extinction we have been transported forward to man’s last gasps, reminiscent of what is currently going on with the Laysan Albatrosses on the island of Midway Atoll." Unsurprisingly, the music is as brutal as the message. MORE>>>

5. GEORGE LYNCH - SHADOW TRAIN

The battle to save the planet is being led by Indigenous peoples worldwide, as the "world's top public intellectual", Noam Chomsky, has pointed out. A fine example of that is the album Shadow Train by George Lynch, the former lead guitarist with hit 1980s hair metal band Dokken. Lynch, a long-time environmental activist who has Native American ancestry, formed a band with First Nations singer Gregg Analla and toured reservations throughout the US, filming their experiences for the forthcoming ecological documentary Shadow Nation. Lynch says of the documentary, in which he interviews Noam Chomsky: "It will illuminate the cost of the destruction of the Native American community - to both the indigenous population as well as to their European conquerors." On August 21 the prolific Lynch also released his latest politically outspoken album, Rebel, with his other band, Lynch Mob. MORE>>>

6. PROVOCALZ - STASHED DOPE

On the frontline of Indigenous peoples' fight Down Under is Gamilaraay rapper Provocalz. The emcee released Stashed Dope - his first album to be put out through mainstream outlets such as iTunes - at the start of the month. Just days later, rallies around Australia marked one year of injustice since the death of Ms Dhu. Hers was the 339th Aboriginal death in custody since the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. The Commission made 339 recommendations that remain largely unimplemented - but could have saved her life. At the Perth rally, Deaths in Custody Watch Committee spokesperson Marc Newhouse noted bitterly: "Now we have more Aboriginal deaths in custody than recommendations." On the album's track "Cop Killa", Provocalz hits back, rapping: "These pigs are fucking filthier than unwashed bongs. Without that gun and that badge, you're just a piss-weak gronk. Kidnap and torture the sergeant, cut him deep. Now we see how you like it, to die in custody." MORE>>>

7. STRAY FROM THE PATH - SUBLIMINAL CRIMINALS

In a similar vein, New York hardcore band Stray From The Path released their new album on August 14, featuring the song "Badge & A Bullet Part II". Guitarist Tom Williams explained: "Badge II is a necessity. When we released Part I, everything got extremely intense in the relationship between civilians and law enforcement. So the way we saw it was, if they aren't done, we aren't done. The message is clear... when it comes down to it, we want cops, judges, DA's and supporters of those three positions to ask themselves... which side are you walking on?" If any band can fill the gaping hole left by Rage Against The Machine, it's Stray From The Path, whose heavy funk, guitar histrionics and scathing political rap are a must-listen. As for Rage Against The Machine, guitarist Tom Morello recently said: "I'm proud of what Rage did. But we have to move forward." He's doing that in style with his powerful new political label, Firebrand Records, whose releases have been pure quality. MORE>>>

8. LOCAL REVOLUTION - GENTLE WARRIOR

Citing Rage Against The Machine as a big influence, Afro funk roots radicals Local Revolution released their debut album on August 1. With a multicultural line-up featuring members with Indian and Afro-Caribbean roots, the Adelaide band pledge on their website to donate proceeds from a previous EP to support local Aboriginal communities. On album highlight "Up And Down" they jibe: "Up and down, say up and down. People must rise and Babylon fall down. See money is a toy for the rich and the proud. Take it away and no war will be found. It’s up to this generation to be strong and be loud. No more mining companies digging up the ground. Uranium is sacred it should never have been found. Tell it to the puppet man. Tell it to the clown." Similar sounds and sentiments can be found on the new EP from Melbourne-based Blue King Brown frontwoman Nattali Rize. On "Generations Will Rize", she sings: "Generations will rize. Governments they will fall. We're the only ones who will carry us through it all." MORE>>>

9. TALIB KWELI - FUCK THE MONEY

Local Revolution and Nattali Rize are clearly not materialistic, but hardly a day goes by without a rapper releasing a money-worshipping album. At the start of the month, Lil Wayne released Tha Carter V Believe Me featuring "Rich As Fuck". Then there was Young Dolph's 16 Zips featuring "Money Power Respect". Quickly following that was McChinx's Welcome To JFK featuring "How To Get Rich" and B-Legit's What We Been Doin featuring "Make A Bitch Rich". Then came Lacrim's R.I.P.R.O Volume 1 and Guilty Simpson's Detroit’s Son, which both featured tracks imaginatively titled "Money". Threatening to outdo them all was Soulja Boy Tell 'Em with King Soulja 4 featuring "Money Phone", "Lottery" and "Getting Figures". But then along came "hip-hop's first billionaire", the woman-beating Dr Dre, whose new album Compton featured "For the Love of Money". So it was a relief when, on August 14, radical rapper Talib Kweli released anti-capitalist album Fuck The Money - and made it a free download. MORE>>>

10. DOWNTOWN BOYS - FULL COMMUNISM

Of course, few artists can afford to give away their work for free - and the same goes for everyday workers. That was a lesson burger chain Grill'd was learning the hard way this month, after employee and unionist Kahlani Pyrah took it to court for allegedly sacking her after she complained about being underpaid. Her action, resulting in a payout on August 27, brought to mind American punk band Downtown Boys. Their tubaist Joey DeFrancesco and vocalist Victoria Ruiz once both took action against a hotel they worked in, with the footage of DeFrancesco's resignation going viral. The band's new album, Full Communism, is a wild ride featuring a cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing In The Dark". It goes one better, bringing an angst that was lacking in Springsteen's saccharine original. However, on a strong album lashing "the prison-industrial complex, racism, queerphobia, capitalism, fascism, boredom, and all things people use to try to close our minds", the cover is really an unnecessary distraction. MORE>>>

11. FEAR FACTORY - GENEXUS

Also hitting back at employers this month were Woolworths warehouse staff - who fear their jobs are about to be taken by robots - and Hutchison Ports stevedores, who are also fighting a bitter battle against automation. Their strike action came as ANZ announced it would be replacing "boring jobs" with robots, causing the financial media to trumpet that automation is going to hit jobs harder than offshoring - up to 40% of jobs by 2030, said one report. All of which has some billionaires scratching their heads at something that might seem obvious to a five-year-old: if your workers are replaced by robots, who will have any money to buy your products? This is old hat to industrial metallers Fear Factory, who have been warning of a futuristic dystopia for decades. "I write stories based on reality, a projection of what I see with the advancements of technology," says singer Burton C Bell. Their new artificial intelligence-themed concept album, released on August 7, is a disturbing and timely listen. MORE>>>

Read about more political albums here.

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