Ten new political albums worth a listen - January 2015

Bambu's album, Party Worker, mimics an activists' meeting.
Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Here's this month's radical record round-up, from Japanese robotics to Italian hardcore. What album, or albums, would you suggest? Comment below, on Twitter or Facebook.

1. DAVID ROVICS
- MEANWHILE IN AFGHANISTAN

Western state terrorism was the elephant in the room as the corporate media hit back at the fatal attack on French magazine Charlie Hedbo this month. The Guardian went so far as to call the attack, which left 12 dead, the "bloodiest single assault on western journalism in living memory". There was no mention of Nato's bombing of Serbian state media in 1999, which killed 16 people, or the US's repeated bombing of government radio stations in Afghanistan. So the release of David Rovics' Meanwhile In Afghanistan the same week as the Charlie Hedbo attacks could not have been more timely. The 2012 version of the album featured some stellar guests, including Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello. This month's double album re-release includes solo versions of all the songs, some sounding completely different. Losing none of its infectiousness is the title track, which asks: "I wanna know who? WHO?! Who? WHO?! Who? WHO?! Who is the terrorist?" http://bit.ly/1Eo6Hlb

2. WORLD ORDER - HAVE A NICE DAY

As economists issued another warning this month of workers being wiped out by robots, it was good to see one band reminding the world that humans can still mimic robots more creatively than robots can mimic humans. Japanese group World Order are led by Genki Sudo, a former champion wrestler and mixed martial artist who made his name partly through outlandish ring entrances featuring robotic dance moves. With his band, Sudo has turned robotics into creatively choreographed high art, with mind-bending moves that have clocked up millions of YouTube hits. But his robotic techno pop has a human heart. World Order formed as a response to the Fukushima nuclear disaster and their latest album features the George HW Bush-sampling “Imperialism”. Sudo is also a prolific author, having published eight books, so far, based on his philosophy that "we are all one". http://bit.ly/15Hxiej

3. FRANK BRETSCHNEIDER - SINN + FORM

Sounding like a bunch of robots chattering away to each other, Frank Bretschneider's latest album takes big bytes out of computerised finance and "a world in permanent crisis". Bretschneider was born and raised in Karl-Marx-Stadt - now Chemnitz - in East Germany and the ghost of Marx haunts the album's sardonic song titles, such as "Free Market", "The Machinery Of Freedom" and "Crisis? What Crisis?" In a similar vein of conscious electronica, Burial's latest release samples a speech by Lana Wachowski - of the Matrix-directing Wachowski Brothers - in which she came out as transgender. Like the publicity-shy Wachowskis, Burial has spent much of his career shrouded in mystery, but took the unusual step of explicitly stating that Rival Dealer is made up of "anti-bullying tunes that could maybe help someone to believe in themselves". The only reason it doesn't get its own entry here is because it's officially classed as an EP, not an album. http://bit.ly/1DcRwHL

4. ENTER SHIKARI - THE MINDSWEEP

As Tony Abbott continued to cack-handedly manhandle Australia towards a fully privatised health care system this month, Enter Shikari blasted similar moves on the other side of the world. "Anaesthetist", the lead single from the politically progressive band's impressive new album, takes a scalpel to the politicians who are dismembering Britain's National Health Service. Over a druggy, Prodigy-esque backbeat, singer Rou Reynolds screams: "You suck the blood of the afflicted. You suck the blood of the afflicted! Illness is not an indulgence which you should pay for, nor is it a crime for which you should be punished!" The accompanying music clip ends with a quote from Aneurin Bevan, the former health minister who spearheaded the creation of the NHS: “No society can legitimately call itself civilised if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means.” http://bit.ly/1y3Z0cE

5. RUBELLA BALLET - PLANET PUNK

Equally scathing of the British establishment are east London-based punks Rubella Ballet, whose latest album offers up a storefront-smashing smorgasbord of radical politics. Over big, brash hooks and jarring guitars, Liverpool-raised vocalist Zillah Minx spits out rollicking rants on everything from terrorism to consumerism that are as vivid as the band's trademark ultraviolet clothing. The highlight is "Victory For The Victims" on which the band blast the events surrounding Liverpool Football Club's Hillsborough disaster in 1989. "It was the biggest cover-up in history - tainted Liverpool fans for 23 years. One hundred and sixteen police changed their statements - and blamed the victims, to their amazement. Victory for the victims, now the truth can be shown. Victory for the victims, you'll never walk alone." http://bit.ly/1wA5ZIJ

6. LOS FASTIDIOS - LET'S DO IT

Italian hardcore punks Los Fastidios display a similar passion for soccer and subversion on their latest album, Let's Do It. The band are well-known for promoting anti-racism in football and are part of the anti-fascist Antifa movement. Sounding like a football terrace chant, the album's title track declares, "Uniti si vince, divisi invece lo sai, futuro non avremo mai," which later in the song they kindly translate as, "United we stand, divided we fall, united, let's go." The only song on the album fully in English, "Think About Them", tackles an issue often neglected on the left - animal rights. Over a typically catchy, pop-punk hook, it asks: "I don't know if you think about it, think about it, think about it: Meat is murder meat is crime. It's never too late to open your eyes and to try to wonder why?" http://bit.ly/1EOwekT

7. VARIOUS ARTISTS - THE BEST OF CERRONE PRODUCTIONS

When conservationist Rachel Carson published Silent Spring in 1962, the book led to a much-revered reversal in US pesticide policy. Fifteen years later, French disco drummer Cerrone suggested little had changed when he served up a reality check for the world in the biggest hit of his career, "Supernature". The lyrics, which blast pesticides for causing "creatures down below" to emerge and "take their sweet revenge" against humans, were written and sung by American songwriter Lene Lovich, who went on to perform benefit concerts for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The music is as timeless as the message. "Supernature" - or any of the other tracks on this album of Cerrone productions - could slide seamlessly into Daft Punk's latest album. This being 1970s disco, there's also plenty of sex and drugs to keep the message bumping along. http://bit.ly/1zWsI93

8. SWAMP DOGG - THE WHITE MAN MADE ME DO IT

Amnesty's brick-sized Annual Report Into the State of the World's Human Rights spells out in depressing detail how racism and persecution exist in every country. A similar message is delivered in a rather more fun way on slick soulster Swamp Dogg's new album. His song "Prejudice Is Alive And Well" comes across like a more thoughtful flip-side to James Brown's nationalistic "Living In America", which some may remember Brown performing in Sylvester Stallone's Rocky IV. With all the strutting swagger and stabbing funk of Brown, Swamp Dogg's song opines: "Prejudice is alive and well - and those who want it can go to hell. All over the world it exists - but in the US, it has a special twist." The album does have some lighter moments. Swamp Dogg - hailed as "one of the great cult figures of 20th century American music" - has often been compared to master musical satirist Frank Zappa - and parts of this album have Zappa's absurdity scrawled all over them. http://bit.ly/1wreisb

9. NAPALM DEATH - APEX PREDATOR, EASY MEAT

British grindcore veterans Napalm Death are in the Guinness Book Of Records for having the shortest song in the world - for 1987's "You Suffer", which clocks in at 1.316 seconds. Fifteen studio albums later, they are far more versatile - the title track of their latest album even sounds almost operatic. Vocalist Barney Greenway says the "more ambient, more expansive, more unsettlingly discordant" sound is appropriate, since the album was inspired by the collapse of a sweatshop textiles factory in Bangladesh in 2013. "It spurred me on to try and craft an exposé of slave labour in the modern world," he says. "The ‘Apex Predator’ represents those who bring the slavery to bear (and capitalise from it), and the ‘Easy Meat’ is of therefore those who feel they have no option but to comply.” The band are well-known for their leftist leanings, having raised funds for striking mine workers in the past. http://bit.ly/1DfGS2Z

10. BAMBU - PARTY WORKER

Anyone who has attended an activists' meeting might get a good laugh out of Bambu's Party Worker, a concept album recorded in the format of such a gathering. The Filipino-American rapper - who has served time in the military as well as in jail for armed robbery - now does community work, and his album pokes fun at the lateness, disorganisation and proud lack of work ethics that can sometimes be found at such meetings. Also featured on the album is the rapper's wife, Rocky Rivera, who also happens to be a community activist and a Filipino-American rapper with an equally impressive album. On her own record, Gangster Of Love, Rivera raps: "Black and brown people in the south, they still lynchin'. A woman gettin' raped every 25 seconds. That's why I ain't afraid of these thugs. Cuz we live by the gun so we DIE by the gun." http://bit.ly/1tnSRcn

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From last month: 52 left-leaning albums from 2014

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