It is safe to say that no one is really looking forward to the morning of November 9th. As such, it seems only fitting to explore all the angry political music to get into to cushion the blow of the fact that no matter what the result of the US election is, we have to wonder how it got this close.
In the past, political music often centred on concepts. Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan sang vague songs about the American Dream and a shared vision; The Sex Pistols and Ramones wrote snarly anti-establishment anthems; even modern political artists, such as Anti-Flag and Rise Against, tended to target ideals rather than nitty gritty policies and personalities. Just two years ago, Against Me! were criticised for singling in on an issue too closely by dedicating a whole album to LGBT rights. A 40-song compilation on the flaws of one man would have been panned. But this year has not been a normal year.
Of most note is the ’30 Days 30 Songs’ project. This is a 40-song project (yes, it irritates me too) with songs by some fairly noteworthy artists, with Death Cab for Cutie, Moby and Franz Ferdinand amongst the contributors. For the politically minded, this is a bumper compilation against Trump-style politics, Franz Ferdinand’s ‘Demagogue’ being a none-too-subtle swing at Trump’s populist persona. Bhi Bhiman’s ‘With Love From Russia’ is an attack on Trump’s Russian business ties that covers probably the most specific political issue a big name musician has tackled for years without falling flat on their face. For the more musically inclined, this is a solid collection of music, DCFC’s effort ‘Million Dollar Loan’ probably being the strongest song they have released for a good while.
A number of other artists have been pumping out political numbers recently. Just this week Emperor X broke a four-year-long break on releasing music to launch his new album with lead single ‘Wasted on the Senate Floor’. The song has been doing the rounds live for the last couple of years, but now the lyrics have been heavily modified to focus on Trump. Green Day’s new album, Revolution Radio, attacks the same man and the aggression in America at the moment. Lead single ‘Bang Bang’ is possibly the bravest song the band have ever released, entering the mind of school shooters. For all the album’s faults, its bravery on politics is greater than any of their previous efforts, even the righteous fury of ‘American Idiot’.
When Woody Guthrie sang ‘This Land Is Your Land’ he spoke of a common vision. It is a great song, and a message we can all get behind. Its punk descendants still had messages vaguely shared by all, just delivered with disgust and anger to make it suitably unpalatable. This year seems to be the year political music changed. It is no longer about collective visions of warm community. 2016 has spawned a generation of direct uppercuts to certain issues, delivered with a scathing anger. And it is all well worth a listen.