Here's a look back at October's political news and the best new music that related to it. You can also listen to a podcast of this column, including an 11-year-old schoolkid giving his verdict on all the albums.
1. MINISTRY - MORAL HYGIENE
On October 1, industrial music icons Ministry released their new album, which takes everything that's wrong with the world and hurls it into a bath of acid. According to frontperson Al Jourgensen, the song “Believe Me” is "about mistrust — not only in our political figures, but in personal relationships as well”. But it is the album's seventh song, “Broken System”, that "pretty much sums up all the preceding songs on the album. It talks about everything from climate change to corruption to the kleptocracy we live in now. How do we get out of it? I don't have the answers entirely, but I do think there’s still some people who aren’t aware that this is a broken system, and those people need to maybe pay attention.” Ministry's highly dedicated fanbase will take the invigorating album as a rallying cry to intensify their activism, and everyone should thank them for that. LISTEN TO MINISTRY'S MORAL HYGIENE >>>
2. THE SPECIALS - PROTEST SONGS 1924-2012
Released the same day was the new album from British ska pioneers The Specials, who put out the collection of protest songs because they felt little had changed since they topped the charts with songs about Margaret Thatcher's Britain in 1982. “It’s like going back to the Winter of Discontent," said guitarist Lynval Golding about the country's latest shortages. "They had Brexit, which was all, ‘They’re coming over here, taking our jobs!’, now they’re like, ‘Come back, we need drivers!’ We’re running around, chasing our tail... Racism hasn’t changed in 40 years." Also skewering Thatcherite politics is the new album from Scottish composer Epoch, which soundtracks the hit videogame Thatcher's Techbase. Noting the game's global popularity, its creator, Jim Purvis, said: "We’re still seeing her ghost all over the place in our current socio-political situation." LISTEN TO THE SPECIALS' PROTEST SONGS 1924–2012 >>>
3. LOS FASTIDIOS - XXX THE NUMBER OF THE BEAT
On October 9, such politics came to a head when hundreds of fascists forced their way into the Italian General Confederation of Labour headquarters in Rome, sending shock waves through Italian politics and the labour movement. Two days later, Italian ska punks Los Fastidios, who have long rallied against such fascism in their country, celebrated their 30th year by releasing their new album. On the song "Take A Stand", written to be sung on football terraces to counter fascism among supporters, the fun-loving band sing: "Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh, everybody take a stand, singing on the terraces, everybody shouting loud, against racism. Everybody walk the street, to stop injustice. Everybody side by side and stick together. Not enough to say to be non racist, we cannot be indifferent and silent, united in the streets, in every ground, everybody shouting loud: we are anti-racist." LISTEN TO LOS FASTIDIOS' XXX THE NUMBER OF THE BEAT >>>
4. TOM MORELLO - THE ATLAS UNDERGROUND FIRE
"We came within a baby’s breath of a fascist coup in the US," said Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello, underlining the rise of far-right politics worldwide while discussing his new album, released on October 22. On the album's song "Hold The Line", protest music prodigy grandson sings: "Nobody said it happens overnight, but if you're looking for a sign, remember everybody that stood up before you, oh, they hold the line. They wanna tell you you're already free, put these chains on and rob you blind, when they co-op the movement, don't trip, just hold the line." On October 2, Finneas — the brother and writing partner of pop superstar Billie Eilish — was doing just that as he performed at the Austin City Limits Music Festival following a huge protest for abortion rights. Days later he released his new solo album, which addresses "lying politicians". LISTEN TO TOM MORELLO'S THE ATLAS UNDERGROUND FIRE >>>
5. MOD CON - MODERN CONDITION
On October 7, one such politician said he agreed with climate activist Greta Thunberg that political leaders were talking worthless "blah" on climate action. “I’m in the Greta Thunberg camp here," said coal-promoting Australian Senator Matt Canavan. "If they actually believed the rhetoric about the world blowing up and all this stuff, you would do a lot more than signing up to net-zero.” Coming from another angle were Melbourne punks Mod Con, with their scathing new album on October 22. Discussing it, they said: "It just became hard to ignore the disgust I felt for politics in this country regarding the environment! We’re allowing Indigenous sacred sites to be blown up for mining companies and highways, letting our reefs get bleached and burying renewable energies in favour of coal! The rest of the world wants to slap us in the face with a cold trout for being so pig headed!" LISTEN TO MOD CON'S MODERN CONDITION >>>
6. BAKER BOY - GELA
On October 14, Australia's Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce, promised a multibillion-dollar coal export train, driving a railroad through the wishes of most voters and Aboriginal people, who are at the forefront of the fight against coal. The next day, Indigenous musician Baker Boy released his powerful new album, which addresses such issues. On the track "Survive", he raps: "When the hunters become hunted, poverty line becomes funded, billionaires with a million shares, market crash, they redundant. Top floor to the dungeon, wouldn't last a day in our shoes. What you know about living off the land...? We just survive, we just survive. I don't how we continue to thrive. We keep on going like we cannot die." The album came as politicians ended coronavirus lockdowns to open up the economy, despite vulnerable Aboriginal people remaining unvaccinated. LISTEN TO BAKER BOY'S GELA >>>
7. FRANK WALN - IN THE KEY OF LAKOTA
Railing against the same colonial vandalism in the United States is the new album from Indigenous hip-hop musician Frank Waln, released on October 8. On "My People Come From The Land", the emcee spits: "My tribe cannot survive as long as the settlers will thrive. For centuries on this land they committed genocide. They don't feel the land. They kill the land. Tried to kill the Indian and save the man. Settlers slaughter. They poison water. From Flint, Michigan, to Standing Rock, the land is hot. The land is hurt. I feel it too. I'm from the earth. My flesh and blood the colour of the dirt. I am blessed enough to love my mother first." A fortnight later across the border, Aboriginal hip-hoppers Snotty Nose Rez Kids released their new album, which slams similar issues. On "Red Sky At Night" they rap: “Oh Canada, I’m mad at ya. What you put us through, made us savage, boo.” LISTEN TO FRANK WALN'S IN THE KEY OF LAKOTA >>>
8. SHIHAD - OLD GODS
Also tearing down the colonists is the new album from New Zealand's chart-topping heavy rockers Shihad, released on October 8. Describing how its opening song was inspired by protesters in England toppling the statue of 17th Century slave-trader Edward Colston, singer John Toogood said: “The idea for 'Tear Down Those Names' came directly from watching those clips. Here’s a man who transported and sold tens of thousands of kidnapped African men, women and children, which is an abomination, yet he’d been glorified for years with that statue! That song is about the fact that many of us aren’t prepared for such people to be portrayed as heroic any more, especially in the middle of the streets where we live.” Such actions also inspired the album's artwork, which features a protester spray-painting a figurine in defiance of statue-loving politicians worldwide. LISTEN TO SHIHAD'S OLD GODS >>>
9. BILLY BRAGG - THE MILLION THINGS THAT NEVER HAPPENED
Addressing the same issue is the new album from British musician Billy Bragg, whose name has long been synonymous with protest music. On "Mid-Century Modern", he sings: "It's hard to get your bearings in a world that doesn't care. Positions I took long ago feel comfy as an old arm chair. But the kids that pull the statues down, they challenge me to see, the gap between the man I am and the man I wanna be. That old familiar argument blew up again last night. The one where one of us is wrong but both of us feel in the right. My indignation drove me to say things that I regret. I hurt the one I love the most with my self-righteous temperament. Now I'm used to people listening to what I have to say, and I found it hard to think that it might help if I just stepped away.” It is such personal ruminations, rather than political sloganeering, that give the album its strength. LISTEN TO BILLY BRAGG'S THE MILLION THINGS THAT NEVER HAPPENED >>>
10. ROGER TAYLOR - OUTSIDER
On October 1, Bragg's fellow Brit, Queen drummer Roger Taylor, who has previously blasted media baron Rupert Murdoch on his solo outings, released his new album. On "Gangsters Are Running This World", the percussionist pummels politicians as hard as he beats his skins. “I suppose the big difference between Queen and this album is that I’ve written a couple of what you might call ‘political’ songs,” Taylor said. “That wasn’t something we really did as a band. It was a conscious choice. Right at the start – and you’ve got to remember that there was a lot of hardcore political stuff going on in the ‘70s – [Queen singer] Freddie [Mercury] said, ‘Look, I don’t want to get involved in all that. I want to go round the world playing songs that people can enjoy.'" No one will begrudge Mercury for that, but many will be glad Taylor now has the space to express his opinions. LISTEN TO ROGER TAYLOR'S OUTSIDER >>>
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 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. This month, Mat Ward released the second single from his new album based on protest chants, Why I Protest. You can download it free for a limited time.
Stream our new "Protest albums of 2021" playlist on Spotify. This replaces the previous "Political albums" playlist, that was getting too big at more than 700 albums.
Read about more political albums.
Listen to this column as The 10 Best Political Albums Of The Month podcast.
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