Ten new political albums worth a listen - May 2015

Buffy Saint-Marie's new album.
May 27, 2015

Here's this month's radical record round-up, with an emphasis on International Workers' Day, May 1. What album, or albums, would you suggest? Comment below, on Twitter or Facebook.

1. MARCEL CARTIER - UNITED STATES OF HYPOCRISY

Released specifically to mark International Workers' Day on May 1, United States Of Hypocrisy further solidified Marcel Cartier's status as one of the most radical rappers out there. It kicks off with a quote from Malcolm X: "You and I have never seen democracy - all we've seen is hypocrisy." Cartier then lays into his country by mocking contradiction after contradiction. "Borders For Us" blasts: "They want no borders for the money, but more borders for us!" And on "Corporate Welfare Checks", he seethes: "I'll be scrambling to get by, so according to the news I'm a bad guy. They victim blame cos they're trying to cover their tracks. They need to keep their whole way of life intact. Gimme them corporate welfare cheques!" Cartier is already working on a new album with producer Agent Of Change, who also released a new beat tape titled Fight To Win on May 19. Packed with more Vietnamese ingredients than a Banh Mi roll, it was released to mark the 125th anniversary of Ho Chi Minh's birth. >>MORE

2. ANTI-FLAG - AMERICAN SPRING

At the start of the month, diehard political punks Anti-Flag were encouraging fans to get along to Pittonkatonk - "a May Day music and community festival where the audience and musicians become one". Three weeks later the band released American Spring, their first studio album in three years, which includes a "love song to socialism" titled "Brandenburg Gate". The video features a short essay on socialism, which notes, "For decades propagandists have depicted the USSR and the remaining Stalinist totalitarian regimes throughout the world as examples of true Socialist states. But none of these regimes resemble true Socialism - nor do any of the current European nations parading under a flag of Socialist ideas while ruling with capitalist policies." For a fun take on the kind of anti-socialist propaganda churned out by the US over the years, check out British band We Are A Communist, whose 2014 album Blast Off! blends surf rock with the most absurd reds-under-the-bed samples. >>MORE

3. NIYORAH - RISING SUN

On May 1, six police officers in Baltimore were charged over the death of African American Freddie Gray. The police slammed the charges as an attempt to quell riots sparked by Gray's death. The corporate media rounded like a pack of baying dogs on one rioter who was filmed apparently being hit and marched home by his angry mother. Hailing her as "mother of the year" they proved that, when it comes to defending the establishment, the media will even condone parental abuse rather than backing rioters, even if they are protesting racist killings. Just weeks earlier, Virgin Islands reggae star Niyorah had released his new album Rising Sun, whose song "Media Portray" brings to mind a timeless quote from Malcolm X: "If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing." Rappers Onyx also did a fine job of articulating the rioters' anger, releasing petrol bomb-hurling EP Against All Authorities on May 5. >>MORE

4. PROVOCALZ - FUCK RAPPERS

On May 1 in Australia, rallies swept the country not only for International Workers' Day, but also in protest at plans to close down remote Aboriginal communities. Just as elsewhere, the corporate media responded by condemning the protesters, rather than reporting their protests. Biggest-selling paper the Herald Sun resurrected its "Selfish Rabble" headline - used just weeks earlier on the same protesters - with the words, "Still Selfish, Still A Rabble". It blasted the rallies for "shutting down" Melbourne - failing to see the protesters' point that “we want to give Melbourne a taste of what it’s like to have your town shut down”. On his new album, ever-topical Kamileroi rapper Provocalz addresses the closures with the words: "They're cutting off the lights, cutting off the water, in that Australian tradition of Indigenous slaughter." As for why he called the album Fuck Rappers, Provocalz said he is sick of the kind of emcees who "go on MTV Cribs talking about their curtains". >>MORE

5. IN HEARTS WAKE - SKYDANCER

Byron Bay's heaviest hardcore hitmakers In Hearts Wake celebrated May 1 by releasing Skydancer, a "secret" album they'd kept under wraps since releasing its predecessor, Earthwalker, exactly one year previously. Whereas Earthwalker celebrated Mother Nature, Skydancer looks to "Father Sky". In a cruel irony, Father Sky unleashed freak storms on the warehouse holding copies of the new album, destroying many and reducing sales figures. But that didn't stop it from reaching No.2 in the ARIA charts - all the more remarkable considering the band are so uncompromising, musically and politically. Promoting the album, they warned: "Our generation's decisions will impact the planet both positively and negatively more drastically than arguably any other before us." Also holding it down for political Australian hardcore are Earth Caller, whose new album includes the Tony Abbott-baiting song "Dictated, Not Led". The artwork shows a rioter dancing on a police van's windscreen. >>MORE

6. THE HURRIERS - FROM ACORNS MIGHTY OAKS

"We're a proper socialist band, like every town should have," say English punk provocateurs The Hurriers. So it's little surprise the Barnsley-based group chose International Workers' Day to release their much-anticipated debut album, whose catchiness had critics salivating. Naturally, it came out swinging against the ruling Conservative Party, who the band were hoping would lose the general election a week after the album's release. On "Happy Families" they sing: "We're all in this together, or so the Tories say. But we all know that's bullshit, the capitalist way. They tell us that we're lucky, and others are worse off. The ninety-nine percenters, privileged Eton toffs. We're all in this together, they want us to believe. But look a little closer - they're just a bunch of thieves. They're happy when we take it, believing what they say. But ain't it time you woke up, there is a better way." Their poll hopes were dashed, but at least their music remained relevant. >>MORE

7. SUPER FURRY ANIMALS - MWNG

Also deliberately released on International Workers' Day was Mwng, the previously out-of-print Welsh language album by Super Furry Animals. The eccentric indie rockers have a long history of activism - singer Gruff Rhys's father has campaigned for Welsh independence and keyboardist Cian Ciaran's father is an anti-nuclear campaigner. “Growing up in Wales I think has made me aware of many issues," said Ciaran. "We have a rich history - from the birth of the red flag during the Merthyr Rising in 1830 to the Welsh language rights movement during the ‘60s and the bombing campaigns of 1963-69 in reaction and opposition to the flooding of Welsh valleys and decimating entire villages and communities to supply water over the border.” Ciaran, who once bought a tank to deejay from in protest at Britain's anti-rave laws, also released some bass-heavy protest music in the run-up to the election and recently put out an album of psychedelic protest pop with his band Zefur Wolves. >>MORE

8. NOT RIGHT - YOUR TURN

In a British "election special" of the Welsh Peppermint Iguana radio show, host Clint said: "There is one good thing about Tory governments - they do tend to inspire musicians to come up with some pretty decent protest songs." The show was packed, but inevitably it couldn't cover everything, including some stellar British albums in the year leading up to the election. Top of the pile was "Tory Scum" on the album Your Turn by Not Right, who describe themselves as "queer feminist rage, the politic of 'people' before 'profit'." Just as potent was This Band Is Sick by Steve Wight & The Protest Family, who reminded people that if they want change, they've "got to do something about it". Robb Johnson's Us & Them sustained his powerful high quality and Ste McCabe's Brains Of Britain dazzled with its techno-pop eclecticism from his "gay Scottish bedsit". Country techno stars Alabama 3 were equally eclectic, releasing their second Wobblies-themed album, titled The Wimmin From Womble. >>MORE

9. BUFFY SAINT-MARIE - POWER IN THE BLOOD

It's an Alabama 3 song that legendary Cree activist and musician Buffy Saint-Marie chose to cover as the title track of her new album, hailed by critics this month as her best in decades. The song is not such an odd choice - both artists have blurred the lines between politicised country and ground-breaking electronica and Buffy has noted how the interests of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people are starting to converge. In an interview with Canadian radio, she said: "Marginalised people all over the world have similar problems because of colonialism - and so do non-Indigenous people too, they're finding out what we have been going through for many, many years - everybody's starting to go through that now. It's a very interesting awakening." In the interview she also talks about her blacklisting by the FBI, the strong feminist roots of the Idle No More movement, and re-recording "It's My Way" for the album - a song she first recorded 50 years ago. >>MORE

10. JLIN - DARK ENERGY

At the start of this month, more than 100 Australians filled Thirroul Community Centre for the launch of Women of Steel, a new book on the inspiring campaign in which women fought sexism to win jobs at BHP's steelworks. A fitting soundtrack for the forthcoming film about the campaign could be Dark Energy, a leftfield techno album by Indiana-based female steel mill worker JLin. A highlight of the album, which clatters and rolls like a steel factory floor, is "Guantanamo", which is as dark and claustrophobic as its title suggests. Also featured on the album is fellow female techno producer Holly Herndon, whose own album, Platform, was released this month. Its heavenly vocal soundscapes are punctuated with politicised statements such as "Home", which was inspired by Edward Snowden's NSA spying revelations. Herndon calls it a “breakup” song – a lament for the devices she can no longer trust - saying: "If someone’s in my device, that’s my home, that’s where all my relationships live.” >>MORE

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