Wait till you hear these 10 new protest albums

May 27, 2024
Protest albums from May 2024

Do you think there's no good protest music these days? So did I, until I started looking for it. The truth is, it’s always been out there, but it's sometimes just a bit difficult to find. Every month, I search it out, listen to it all, then round up the best of it that relates to that month’s political news. Here’s the round-up for May 2024.

1. PAUL WELLER - 66 

Workers marched for Palestinians' rights in May Day rallies worldwide on May 1. They joined countless students protesting for Palestinians on university campuses around the world. By May 14, more than 100 bands had withdrawn from Britain's Great Escape music festival in solidarity with Palestine. Days later, Paul Weller, the fabled former singer with The Jam, also weighed in while discussing his new album, released on May 24. "With Israel and Palestine, it’s incredible that the whole world’s not up in arms about it," he said. "I don’t understand how, in the modern 21st century, genocide and ethnic cleansing seem to be brushed under the carpet. It’s fucking weird, man." On the album, hailed as "his most political since The Jam eviscerated England’s class system with 'Eton Rifles' in 1979", he blasts British politicians. "The UK is led by idiots," he said. "They don’t give a fuck." LISTEN>>>   


Similar sentiments are found on the new album by Weller's fellow Englishman and revered progressive rocker Andy Tillison, released on May 10. Tillison's band, The Tangent, usually employ some of the world's best musicians, but many were unavailable for this album. Astoundingly, Tillison instead played every instrument himself on the record, to stunning effect. There's not a boring moment on the album, including its epic, 21-minute, showpiece, "The Anachronism", in which he blasts the kind of choices faced by Britons in an election called days after its release. Red or blue? It's irrelevant, he sings. "Is it really 'freedom' with that ballot slip you’ve been filling in so long? Democracy failed us, autocracy sucks, kleptocracy’s a rip off, theocracy’s fucked. Bureaucracy drives us, and the technocrats don’t care, they keep fanning the flames of discontentment, anyway, anyhow, anywhere.” LISTEN>>>    


Kleptocracy is also in the crosshairs of British folk-punks Ferocious Dog, who made it the title of their new album, released on May 17. "Like a lot of people, I had never heard of the word kleptocracy," admitted singer Ken Bonsall when asked about its name. "There’s autocracies and democracies, but what we have now in Britain is a kleptocracy. I saw it on a T-shirt and I thought, 'Wow, that’s exactly what we have got with this government.'" The catchy, rabble-rousing record, which even features songs about protest singers, contains the kind of tunes drunken crowds will go wild for. "Being a folk punk band and a political band at the same time isn’t easy because a lot of bands of that genre try and imitate Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly, with singing songs about being Irish and getting drunk," said Bonsall. "Yeah, we’ve still got the Irish side, but I’m very political, a socialist." LISTEN>>>


Such kleptocracy could be seen in May's election in India, where Britain's divide-and-rule partition was still being felt decades after the British left. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been sowing anti-Muslim hatred to woo the Hindu majority for decades. But as Western media suggested Modi was starting to win over more women, Canadian-Indian musician Kiran Ahluwia hit back on May 2. "There are factions that are creating religious divisions between Hindus and Muslims, between Hindus themselves of different castes," the acrobatic vocalist said while discussing her new album, whose last song is based on Hussain Haidry's poem about a women's protest. "He wrote the poem in response to an all-women peaceful protest in an area of New Delhi called Shaheen Bagh," she said. "Even though it was a peaceful protest, the police got violent... once you unleash a tyrant, you don’t know who else they will oppress." LISTEN>>>  


Women's oppression is at the forefront of US feminist musician Ani DiFranco's new album, Unprecedented Sh!t, released on May 17. “We find ourselves in unprecedented times in many ways, faced with unprecedented challenges," she said. The album's lead single, Baby Roe, is about the adult child of Norma McCorvey (aka Jane Roe), born and adopted-off in the course of her mother’s quest for the right to a legal abortion. "Baby Roe, unaware of her role in history until she was an adult, remains, nonetheless, in support of a woman’s right to choose," said DiFranco. "As I would be." The album came as former Australian PM Scott Morrison said he was pleased to meet with former US president Donald Trump, "especially given the pile-on he is currently dealing with in the US”. Referring to 88 felony charges and paying hush money to a porn star as a "pile-on" sent women a "warped view", noted one columnist. LISTEN>>>   


A more palpable pile-on is the perennial patriarchy upheld by the likes of Trump and Morrison. Among its critics are "lesbian pop" musician Girli, who released her new album, Matriarchy, on May 17. On its title track, she sings: “When we touch, we touch to fuck the patriarchy.” Asked about it, she said: "When I wrote that song it was about queer women finding solace from the patriarchy and the male gaze in each other's embrace. It was about reclaiming your body and your sexuality and trying to reverse years and years and years of growing up and existing under the patriarchy. But then I thought about the community that I've built with my fans about how that word meant to me a safe space. The idea of ‘matriarchy’ became like a utopia, where anyone who doesn't thrive in the current society that we live in, which is ruled by white cisgendered men, can just take a break." LISTEN>>>   


It seemed progressives had caught a break on May 12, when music contest Eurovision crowned its first nonbinary winner. The announcement came after days of protests over Israel being allowed to take part, despite Russia being banned from the "apolitical" competition due to its war on Ukraine. But on May 15, bigotry reared its ugly head again as Peru officially classified trans people as "mentally ill". Five days earlier, award-winning musician and transgender activist Ryan Cassata skewered such ignorance with his new punk EP. “This Machine Kills Transphobia is a provocative and empowering title for a quickfire six-track collection that takes on everything from organised religion to conservatism in an effort to rail against the systemic elements that keep queer people at the fringes of society," he said. "Yet, with every fiery denouncement comes an encouraging message of love.” LISTEN>>>   


Also empowering the oppressed was Tuareg musician Mdou Moctar, with his "fiercely political" new album, released on May 3. After the album’s recording during his band’s 2023 North American tour, a military coup erupted in their home country, Niger, stranding them the US. Niger's colonial overlord, France, subsequently withdrew its last 1500 troops. But Moctar opposed the coup just as he did French colonialism, pushing for peace instead. “We have to say that even if it’s difficult, even if it’s unsafe for us,” he said. “All those feelings push us to do this album and give it this strong name: Funeral for Justice.” Meanwhile, opposition to French colonialism continued, as deadly riots erupted in the semi-autonomous colony of New Caledonia on May 15. The protests flared partly over a new bill adopted by MPs in Paris that would let French expats vote in the province’s elections, diluting the Kanak vote. LISTEN>>>   


Anti-colonial resistance also burns bright on Between The Fires, the chart-topping new album by Aboriginal country musician Troy Cassar-Daley, released on May 10. On the song "Windradyne", he recalls the warrior who led the fight between his Wiradjiri people and British settlers. "One day in the bush stood three ghostly men," he sings, "who said our land is theirs and the trouble soon began. My name is Windradyne, they call me Saturday. Come Sunday, I'll be gone, in the bush, I melt away. I fought for my people on this country where I lay. My name is Windradyne, remember me that way." Days before its release, an Aboriginal teenager who'd won $1 million in a fishing contest was interviewed by a white Sky News presenter whose first question was to ask the boy whether it was true he'd once stolen a car. The boy refrained from saying that the interviewer's people had stolen Aboriginal land. LISTEN>>>


The flow-on effects of that land theft run throughout Running River, the first solo album in 12 years from Australian musician and environmental activist John Butler. Explaining the record, released on May 24, he said: “I feel that life in an age of post-truth, social media and relentless data inundation, environmental, social and political strain, and – if I was not too bold to say - global society collectively, at least in the west, is a bit shattered in the nervous system department.” That environmental strain is also addressed by "2024's greatest political shoegaze album", Frog In Boiling Water, by DIIV. The title refers to the infamous experiment in which frogs fail to jump out of water as its temperature gradually rises, killing them. The album came as Trump, whose right-wing followers often use "Pepe The Frog" profile pictures, asked oil companies for US$1 billion in exchange for favours. LISTEN>>> 

[Mat Ward has been writing for Green Left since 2009. He also wrote the book Real Talk: Aboriginal Rappers Talk About Their Music And Country and makes political music. Mat Ward's latest single is Bruce Is Snorting A Line.]

Want to get this column every month? Just email matwardmusic@gmail.com and I’ll add you to my monthly email that includes a link to this column here at Green LeftYes, I want to read this column every month.

Read about more political albums.

Stream our new “Best protest songs of 2024” playlist on Spotify. This replaces the previous “Political albums” playlist, that was getting too big at more than 700 albums.


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