1. EZEKIEL OX - CHEERING BOMBS FROM DECKCHAIRS
Last month, Israeli bombing raids resulted in "a devastating number of Palestinian casualties", including at least 25 people killed. The attacks came as Israel prepared to host the Eurovision Song Contest, where pop legend Madonna and Iceland's entry, Hatari, both displayed Palestinian flags on stage. However, both broke the festival's boycott to do so. Not breaking any boycotts was longtime Australian activist and musician Ezekiel Ox, whose new thrash-funk album, Cheering Bombs From Deckchairs, puts Israeli aggression directly in the cross-hairs. Explaining its title, he said: “I saw some video footage of Israeli people sitting up on a hill in Israel, looking over the wall in deckchairs with drinks and eskies. They were cheering as Palestinian people were bombed ... I was obviously appalled ... I’m not saying Israelis are the problem, Zionism as a political concept is a problem. From my perspective, it was something I just couldn’t get out of my head.” LISTEN>>>
2. RAMMSTEIN - UNTITLED
Anti-Zionist activists like Ox are often wrongly smeared as anti-Semitic. This month, bestselling anti-fascist German band Rammstein found themselves subject to the same smear when their new album's promotional music video "Deutschland", tracing Germany's history and its holocaust of Jews, clocked up more than 50 million views. It's not the first time their politics have been misinterpreted. In 2015, far-right racists in Australia began using their music even though Rammstein had explicitly stated they were left-wing. Their new video defiantly depicts the future of Germany as Black and female, a powerful statement when Germany's third-biggest political party is the far-right and anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany. On "Radio", singer Till Lindemann recalls growing up in East Germany and on the EU-trashing "Auslander", he calls for open borders. It's all served up in booming German over the catchiest, bombastic riffs. MORE>>>
3. LOS FASTIDIOS - JOY JOY JOY
Italy's far-right and anti-immigrant deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini expressed his disgust when the Italian public chose a half-Egyptian, half-Sardinian singer named Mahmood to represent the country at Eurovision. “Really… the most beautiful Italian song of the year?" he tweeted. "I’d have picked [runner-up] Ultimo, what do you think?” After Salvini's nationalist League party came top in the European elections in Italy on May 27, he declared that "Europe is changing".
Hitting back at the likes of Salvini are the anti-fascist and football-mad Italian band Los Fastidios, whose latest album of joyous punk anthems, released on May 16, sounds like it was designed to be sung on the terraces. The band are longtime supporters of St Pauli FC, Germany's refugee-helping football club, which hit headlines this month for its work integrating asylum seekers into the European community. MORE>>>
4. SLOWTHAI - NOTHING GREAT ABOUT BRITAIN
Continuing its torturously long breakup with Europe was Britain, where council-estate raised rapper Slowthai released his Brexit-bashing debut album Nothing Great About Britain on May 17. Taking the opposite tack was ex-Smiths singer Morrissey, who continued to appal former fans this month as he wore a badge supporting anti-Muslim party For Britain on US television. As he geared up to release his new album on May 24, posters for the album were taken down in Merseyside after a complaint, Rolling Stone cancelled an interview with him after he refused to discuss his politics, his records were banned by the "world's oldest record shop", and guests who'd sung on his album claimed they'd been duped into appearing on it as they hadn't realised his politics had changed. Curiously, the album consists of covers of left-wing protest songs - and it's brilliant. None of which detracts from the fact that I now want to hammer a nail through my own testicles for having even mentioned it. MORE>>>
5. THE ASKEW SISTERS - ENCLOSURE
Harking back to a Britain of yore in a more compassionate way were folk-singing duo The Askew Sisters. Their new album examining the destruction of the British countryside was released on May 3, three days before a United Nations report said the Earth is set to lose 1 million species as a “direct result of human activity”. "We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide,” it said. A field recording of birdsong begins the first song, "I Wandered By The Brookside", reminding listeners of the loss of songbird habitats, before its message kicks in about how political inequality is maintained by legal means. "Our relationship with the natural world is something we’re really starting to re-evaluate now that issues of climate change and biodiversity are slowly beginning to be given the weight that they need," said the sisters. "Some of these old songs hark back to a time when that relationship was not so distant." MORE>>>
6. BIRDZ - PLACE OF DREAMS
On May 18, the environmental destruction of Australia got divine approval when Jesus Christ, fresh from turning water into wine, re-elected coal-loving Liberal Party leader Scott Morrison as Prime Minister. The result went against all odds, prompting evangelical Pentacostalist Morrison to say: "I've always believed in miracles and we've been delivered another one." The win prompted his resources minister to tweet "Start Adani!" in reference to the Great Barrier Reef-threatening Adani coal mine, which has been slammed as insolvent by the business press and fiercely resisted by the Aboriginal owners of the land it is set to destroy. Eloquently deconstructing the colonial onslaught was Aboriginal rapper Birdz, who sings and raps his way across Australia's brutal past and present on his new album of bass-heavy hip-hop, released on May 3. In "On The Run" he raps in a faux white Aussie accent: "Blood-sucking leeches, they won't sign our leases. Bring back the days we had 'em all on leashes." MORE>>>
7. DEEPAK PEACE - 1947 SE AK-47 TAK
The Adani coal mine is the brainchild of Indian businessman Gautam Adani, who plans to ship the coal back to India, where far-right wing Prime Minister Nerendra Modi was re-elected in a landslide on May 23. Indian musician Deepak Peace, whose song about Modi, "Mr Prime Minister", was recently banned, reflected on the dangers of singing in Hindi as he limbered up for a gig this month. "If the political act is in English then they don’t mind but if it’s in Hindi that’s where the problem arises," said Peace, who sings in Hindi. "It’s peculiar. You see how ironic it is — they know that the Hindi act will reach out to more audiences, that is why they’re scared, so they don’t want this kind of music to reach the masses." Despite Modi being re-elected by pandering to the Hindu majority, Peace is taking the opposite tack. "I want to pursue a record on caste issue — a whole record on it," he said. "It’s like an elephant in the room and nobody wants to see it." MORE>>>
8. EVAN GREER - SHE/HER/THEY/THEM
"Israel and India have extensive nuclear weapons programmes - each protected by ferocious domestic official secrets acts," wrote former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger on May 26. "Think of the outcry if the Netanyahu or Modi governments attempted to extradite a British or US journalist to face life in jail for writing true things about their nuclear arsenals." Yet, he said, that is exactly what is happening to Australian WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange, who on May 23 was charged with 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act by the US, which is seeking to jail him along with his alleged source of US classified information, Chelsea Manning. On May 11, longtime Manning supporter and trans activist Evan Greer held a launch party for her new album of "utilitarian protest songs" to be sung at rallies, saying "every social movement has had that drumbeat of culture and art". If catchiness is anything to go by, the album, which ranges from polished pop to pissed-off punk, should be a success. MORE>>>
9. JOSH GRAY - SONGS OF THE HIGHWAY
Also railing against the US government was politically progressive country musician Margo Price, who hit back at regressive Republican anti-abortion laws brought in on May 15, nine days before her child was due to be born. “I don’t understand why men are making laws about women’s bodies,” said Price of the new legislation, which is worse than that in Saudi Arabia. “Men have no idea what it’s like to be pregnant, what it’s like to carry a child, how much stress it puts on the body, how much it changes your life.” Her move followed the release of Songs Of The Highway, the meticulously produced new album by her fellow radical country musician, Josh Gray. On "Darkest Before The Dawn" he sings: "We vote in these leaders and watch them impede us every step of the way. Self-serving cowards, growing empowered with cash from the NRA. Oh my friends, this ain't a sad song, keep marchin', though the road is long, we'll prevail, for love is strong. It's always Darkest Before the Dawn." MORE>>>
10. THE LAST POETS - TRANSCENDING TOXIC TIMES
Still marching that long road are The Last Poets, the free jazz-loving harbingers of hip-hop who formed more than 50 years ago. Discussing their new album Transcending Toxic Times, released on May 10, the band's Umar Bin Hassan said: "It’s about transcending toxic times with our poetry, to get our message to the people, to get out of this madness and to start to move forward as one people, as a united people, with human decency and understanding of others.” But his fellow band member Abiodun Oyewole also sees a long road ahead. “Unfortunately, nothing much has changed when it comes to racism, which is a disease like cancer,” he said. “I would love to live in a world where all people of all races live without class systems or racial discrimination, but that world has not been discovered yet. There are too many insecure and jealous people in America even now.” LISTEN>>>
BONUS: HERE ARE ANOTHER 10 ALBUMS
This column is taking a month off and will return at the end of July. To tide you over till then, here are 10 more great political albums that came out this month.
1. MAVIS STAPLES - WE GET BY
The long-time US soul singer and activist is sounding a fraction of her almost 80 years. MORE>>>
2. CHESS AT BREAKFAST - WEALTHCARE
Progressive metallers tout progressive politics on songs like "P.O.T.U.S. Blues" and "The Senate Needs A Nightcap". MORE>>>
3. BCUC - THE HEALING (BANTU CONTINUA UHURU CONSCIOUSNESS)
As South Africa went to the polls, this woke collective put out another album of epic, sprawling Afrobeats. MORE>>>
4. ARCHIE ROACH - THE CONCERT COLLECTION 2012-2018
The revered Aboriginal singer-songwriter shines in this quality, classy collection tracing his own story and the history of Australia. MORE>>>
5. CLARE CURTEIS - YO NACI DE MUJER
This Scottish musician and her Nicaraguan partner and children fled Nicaragua to record this album of protest songs. MORE>>>
6. ILE - ALMADURA
Puerto Rican singer-songwriter iLe - formerly a member of acclaimed group Calle 13 - sings for her country's freedom. MORE>>>
7. JAMILA WOODS - LEGACY! LEGACY!
The acclaimed neo-soul rapper returns with a concept album inspired by the big names in Black politics. MORE>>>
8. ANI DIFRANCO - NO WALLS MIXTAPE
The veteran feminist activist re-recorded many of her songs in this collection to accompany her new autobiography. MORE>>>
9. BAD RELIGION - AGE OF UNREASON
These seminal political punks have finally returned, reinvigorated by the dire state of world affairs. MORE>>>
10. AMYGDALA - OUR VOICES WILL SOAR FOREVER
Scathing, screaming punks whose frontwoman tackles sexual abuse and the darker side of politics. MORE>>>
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 him on Spotify here.
Read about more political albums here.
Stream Green Left TV's political music playlist here.
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