Ten new political albums worth a listen: June 2015

Bad Cop/Bad Cop hit back at domestic abusers.
Saturday, June 27, 2015

Here's this month's radical record round-up, from queer house to riotous ska. What album, or albums, would you suggest? Comment below, on Twitter or Facebook.

1. RUPAUL - REALNESS

At the start of the month, house music producer Ten Walls destroyed all the progressive kudos he'd built with mega-hit "Walking With Elephants", by saying gays were a "different breed", comparable to paedophiles. Yet house music "was born from gay people of colour sweating their asses off at 5am in a Chicago warehouse", as one club founder recently put it. A reminder of house's roots comes in the svelte shape of RuPaul's latest album, a throwback to the pounding pianos and strobing synth lines of early house. On "Step It Up", RuPaul - who recently slammed "no" voters in Ireland's gay marriage poll - sings: "All you biological females who used to have the upper hand - it ain't like that any more honey, it's got real tough up in here. You got your trisexual, you got your bisexual, you got your intersexual. Girl, you have to step your pussy up." It's tongue-in-cheek, but it also leaves Ten Walls looking as uncool as, say, Tony Abbott - especially now the US has legalised same-sex marriage. >>MORE

2. BAD COP/BAD COP - NOT SORRY

On June 19, Australian Of The Year Rosie Batty launched a new campaign to fight domestic violence, saying prevention services should not be left to “fight over scraps of funding" after Tony Abbott's cuts caused many women's shelters to close. The same week, female punks Bad Cop/Bad Cop released their debut album, featuring the timely lyric: "She went back to the guy that beat her, who publicly called her his whore. If he came within five feet of me, there'd be a price on his head for sure. I'd use a fucking hammer on his face, yes I would do that for her. I would bite, kick, stab and brawl, then he'd be out of her life forever." The stance has got them labelled "confrontational", raising the question why male rappers aren't labelled as such when they rap about inflicting the violence in the first place. Similar table-turning can also be heard when rapper Peaches asserts her sexuality during "10 modern feminist tunes", part of Mariah Theobald's great 10-part political music radio series. >>MORE

3. HARRY BELAFONTE - DREAMS COME TRUE

Some might ask why US presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton isn't labelled "confrontational" when she comes out with a statement like "we came, we saw, he died" in reference to the slaying of Libya's Muammar Gaddafi. A man she holds in similar contempt is singer Harry Belafonte, who she snubbed at a 2006 awards ceremony a week after he visited Venezuela and praised then-president Hugo Chavez. Belafonte's new album, which features an ode to that country simply titled "Venezuela", was released as Caracas faces ever-greater difficulties. Just days after his album was released, the 88-year-old "King Of Calypso" was awarded yet again for his tireless activism, taking The Greenwich International Film Festival's first Changemaker Honoree award on June 6. The woes of Venezuela, meanwhile, are unlikely to ease if Clinton becomes president. Asked about her this month, renowned intellectual Noam Chomsky said Clinton is "more militant" than Barack Obama. >>MORE

4. NEIL YOUNG + PROMISE OF THE REAL - THE MONSANTO YEARS

Another US presidential hopeful was left looking even dorkier than Hillary Clinton when he launched his campaign on June 16. Orang utan-haired billionaire Donald Trump left some wondering whether he also has the mind of a monkey when he strode on stage to Neil Young's 1989 protest song "Rocking In The Free World". Young was able to capitalise on the move by banning Trump from using the song, gifting it instead to Trump's political nemesis Bernie Sanders, and hitting headlines worldwide just as he was about to launch his latest highly politicised album, The Monsanto Years. On the album, Young could almost be addressing Trump directly when he blasts "fascist politicians" - and on "Big Box", he sings: "In the streets of the capital corporations are taking control, democracy crushed at their feet." As the album's title suggests, Young - who co-founded agricultural benefit concert Farm Aid in 1985 - also has plenty of poison for pesticide giant Monsanto. Highly recommended. >>MORE

5. BOB SEGER - RIDE OUT

On June 11, an environmental lawyers' report said the Great Barrier Reef overwhelmingly met the criteria for an “in danger” listing by Unesco, challenging a draft UN ruling against such a listing, which came only after intense lobbying. A fitting lyric is: "Let's talk about acid in the ocean. Let's look at all the dying coral reefs. Let's talk about shorter growing seasons. Let's talk about what we're gonna eat." Are these the words of a political punk or radical rapper? No, they're on the new album by hoary old rocker Bob Seger. This shows just how screwed the world is. Seger represents the "romantic America" of open highways and "Hollywood Nights". He's like Bruce Springsteen without the politics or household name. If Springsteen is the Great Barrier Reef of rock, Seger is like the less popular version we're heading for. Yet Seger says he is now risking losing his audience with a strong political album, because his kids' future matters more than his fans. We're doomed. >>MORE

6. CIECMATE - LIMBO

On June 14, Rupert Murdoch's Sunday Times in London said British spies were being pulled out of Russia and China to prevent them being killed after the two countries "cracked the top-secret cache of files stolen by the fugitive US whistleblower Edward Snowden". The story, citing anonymous government sources, was widely ridiculed as false. Ex-British diplomat Craig Murray noted it was "timed precisely to coincide with the government's new Snooper's Charter act, enabling the security services to access all our internet activity". Yet it was republished in Australia not only by the Murdoch press, but also by Fairfax - hardly surprising, given Fairfax's extensive corporate interests. One Australian who isn't fooled by Fairfax's claims to be "independent, always" is Ciecmate, who raps on his new album: "You won't find fair facts in media from Fairfax Media, and all the news is limited at News Limited." Also guesting on the album is his partner-in-rhyme, the aptly-named Newsense. >>MORE

7. DESAPARECIDOS - PAYOLA

Fairfax readers are reportedly "more highly educated than News Corp readers". So those who followed Fairfax's laughable front-page instructions to vote for Tony Abbott as a government they "can trust" must be wondering what they have brought upon their children as it destroys the free education model they enjoyed. One country that is moving in the opposite direction, having experienced the dysfunction of a privatised education model, is Chile. That's thanks in no small part to student leader Camila Vallejo, who has a song dedicated to her on the new album by US punks Desaparecidos. Payola, their first album in 13 years, proclaims: "Oh Camila, now the future is on the way. The workers are resisting and the students chant your name. Oh Camila, you put a fire in my heart. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I want to do my part." When it comes to the next election, Fairfax readers should ignore their newspapers' instructions and give this educational album a spin instead. >>MORE

8. GRAPHIC - RAW INTELLIGENCE

Mining boom beneficiary Gina Rinehart, who was until recently Fairfax's biggest shareholder, continued to show that money cannot buy happiness this month. As the world's richest woman squabbled with her children in court over her wealth, a rapper from her home state of Western Australia was promoting an impeccably produced new album that undermines everything she stands for. Green Left Weekly reader Graphic has taken a highly original approach by releasing Raw Intelligence as an interactive ebook containing the album's mp3s, lyrics and links to further reading. On "Boom State", he seethes: "Boom state, boom state - boom boom! When it all collapses, what happens to you?" In a similar bass-heavy hip-hop vein, Sydney scene stalwart Jacqui Lomas released a stonker of an EP this month on which she describes growing up bi-racial in Mauritius, while Melbourne's New Dub City put out an album of remixes on which the politics hit as hard as their trademark bass and breaks. >>MORE

9. MILKY WIMPSHAKE - ENCORE, UN EFFORT!

Few activists beyond those at the G7-praising clicktivist group Avaaz can be getting up much hopes for this December's climate talks in Paris. To change the political situation in France would require nothing less than a "Revolution Politique", which is exactly what Milky Wimpshake call for on their new album, in possibly the most English-sounding French ever recorded. But the melodic indie punks, who once sang about the merits of blending Noam Chomsky's politics with the Ramones' pop-punk frivolity, are more upbeat than most. On "Coming Soon", they sing: "It's coming soon and I can't wait. I'm praying for that glorious day. And what it means is the means of production will be spread out between you and me." Elsewhere in Europe, as Syriza continued to battle with the Troika over the future of Greece, Scotland's shmuFM radio looked to the past, with a history of Greece's political music, rembetiko. >>MORE

10. REFUSED - FREEDOM

There's little hope for Europe on the new album from Swedish hardcore legends Refused. "Useless Europeans" spits: "Go back to sleep. Seen all there is to see. Useless Europeans. Go back to sleep. Been all that you can be. Useless Europeans." The album is the first since the band split up shortly after recording 1998's The Shape Of Punk To Come, now fabled as a "cult classic". Part of that album's appeal was the way it leapt off in unexpected directions, and the new album continues that penchant by drafting in pop super-producer Shellback. Singer Dennis Lyxzen, who spoke to Green Left Weekly in 2013, has said of the new album: "I think this record is some of the most radical stuff that I've ever been a part of. The lyrics are smarter and more revolutionary than anything we've ever done." It's a ripper, but if you like your punk more danceable, fellow hardcore veterans Rancid just released a riot-referencing collection of their ska songs, which are about as fun as political music gets. >>MORE

Read about more political albums here.

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