Kicking off our end of year lists with many a punch…
It’s always commendable when artists take a stand for what they believe in or call out some fairly shady behaviour from people in high up places, especially when they focus a whole track around it, there’s always a risk that it could massively backfire for them. Because of that, we’ve taken a look at some of the best political tracks from this year and given them the spotlight that they deserve.
15. CoCo Rosie feat. Anohni – Smoke Em Out
In response to the “unnatural disaster” that was Donald Trump’s inauguration, the uncompromisingly unique CocoRosie recruited “fellow Future Feminist ANOHNI” for their call to arms to “inspire the weary-disappointed hearts of so many crest-fallen citizens”.
‘Smoke ‘em Out’ features quickly spat lines about rat traps and blood lines before Anohni’s catchy command of “Burning down the House, smoke them out” atop a very characteristic instrumental. Tobias Pugh
14. Fire From The Gods – The Voiceless
The heavy metal outfit from Austin, Texas Fire From The Gods channel a similar political and musical ethos to that of revolutionary metal force Rage Against The Machine, with their unique blending of hip-hop vocals and gritty metalcore instrumentals.
In the track ‘The Voiceless’, lead vocalist AJ Channer addresses the socialised and systematic oppression of marginalised groups in society. ‘The Voiceless’ is a call to society as a whole, to open our eyes to the events happening around us, and not be desensitised to the violence that floods the media almost every day. Both musically and thematically, this is a powerful, hard-hitting track that is not for the faint of heart.
About the track, Channer says: “The Voiceless is referring to the callousness of society. This generation is exposed to so many shocking and graphic events. No one seems to bat an eye. There is no compassion or care for one’s fellow man. Violence towards each other is a normal occurrence factored into our lives these days. Speaking up about it is nothing new, but it needs to be said. Yes, the world will keep spinning, and life does go on, but we need to slow down and smell the f****** roses once in a while.” James Makin
13. Bad Cop / Bad Cop – Womanarchist
Perhaps one of the most socially relevant tracks of the year, you don’t get more punk than this. The all female outfit lead by Stacey Dee wrote ‘Wormanarchist’ when Dee “was playing around with the idea of how even the ‘alt-left’ are just as crazy as the ‘alt-right”. She says “even though I’m way closer to the left’s ideologies, it still doesn’t sum up who I am or what I believe in.”
Produced by NOFX’s Fat Mike, this pop-punk adrenaline rush will hit you in the face with overdriven guitars, coarse vocals, and hefty, omnipotent drums. Whack this track on and turn it up to 11. Rahul Bhogal
12. Cabbage – Necroflat in the Palace
2017 has had its ups and downs for Manchester grimy, garage rockers Cabbage. A string of festival performances in the Summer and the hugely successful Healing Brexit Towns Experiment Tour in the Autumn were tempered by frontman Lee Broadbent breaking his pelvis and cutting short the band’s first European tour and garnering headlines for an alleged sexual assault. But 2017 began with the release of the EP collection ‘Young, Dumb and Full of Cabbage’ and the track ‘Necroflat in the Palace’ (taken from the EP of the same name).
The verses contain hilarious lyrics about the royals, but the real political punch comes with the pre-chorus call; “I was born in the NHS, I wanna die in the NHS”, which is the highlight of every live show and could be the B-side to the ‘Oh, Jeremy Corbyn’ chant we heard throughout the summer. Arthur Charlesworth
11. Queen Zee and the Sasstones – Fly The Pink Flag
Dedicating the track during their live show to the victims of the Orlando Shooting back in 2016 which sadly took the lives of 49 LGBT people; ‘Fly The Pink Flag’ is a show of defiance, ensuring that those lost are definitely not forgotten.
The video for ‘Fly The Pink Flag’ was filmed during a live session at Elevator Studios and does well to capture the sheer energy and magic that the band have in their live show. Samantha Daly
10. Kamakaze – Justice
From spitting hip-hop freestyles with his group BLG in 2012 and earlier, to releasing a Fire in the Booth on Charlie Sloth’s BBC Radio 1 show this year, Leicester grime and hip-hop artist Kamakaze has been making movements in the underground UK scene for years. With stout lyricism and delivery, and flows inspired by the grime greats of the early 2000s, Kamakaze is an up-and-coming artist to watch.
Harking back to his hip-hop roots with ‘Justice’, the Leicester rapper and Dagenham and Redbridge midfielder addresses a number of life’s injustices: the struggles of youth, the aftermath of war, terrorism and systemic racism. The accompanying instrumental is suitably heavy, and Kamakaze’s cold delivery perfectly encompasses the gravity of the themes he is addressing. JM
9. Dave – Question Time
Another grime artist makes our list for 2017, with Streatham born rapper Dave. At 19 years old, having already amassed millions of views on Youtube, the young artist has released perhaps one of the most scathing addresses of British politics to date. The 7-minute-long track focuses on the governments mistreatment of a struggling NHS, the Grenfell Towers tragedy and of course, a direct address to the politicians themselves with a mature and serious observational skill that one would perhaps not expect from such a young artist.
Even Corbyn didn’t escape the firing line, despite many artists from the UK Grime scenes open support of the politician in its #GrimeForCorbyn movement. Dave doesn’t plug any particular political agenda, but eloquently expresses the distrust and discontent that many young and/or impoverished communities feel towards the distant world of politics. Whatever your political views may be, this track is an important message to be taken from 2017. JM
8. Youth Killed It – Popstar
Indie punk rockers Youth Killed It released album ‘Modern Bollotics’ back in May, and with it came the punchy punk anthem ‘Popstar’. Written about the problematic, frustrating dynamics of 21st Century politics and systems, the band say: “You know how the old story goes, boy starts band, boys thinks he can be a popstar. Then boy quickly realises he looks like a Cheshire cat mated with The Rock and bam that dream is over, I guess deep down it’s a critique of what being a young adult has become nowadays. You’ve got to do things the ‘old fashioned way’ if you want to be generally not frowned upon by society, you must be realistic!”
Huge guitars and rhythms fall behind a voice with as much Raw Power as Iggy Pop providing a backdrop of anarchy and freedom. The boys say this isn’t to be taken in an pensive manner, but the fact is this is a serious, ego-killing, mind-freeing track. RB
7. Downtown Boys – A Wall
Trump created many things in 2017, one of them being a mainstream punk revival. Downtown Boys album ‘Cost of Living’, crystallised the aggression of 2015’s debut ‘Full Communism’ and added an anthemic quality. With its ascending intro and ever building bass and brass, this isn’t truer than on the album’s opening track ‘A Wall’, but this track wasn’t merely about aspirations, but also about action. The rolling drums, violent vocals and bouncing bass bear the imprint of Fugazi/Rites of Spring’s Guy Picciotto’s production; and are all a call to arms. Plus the apparent nihilism of the call and response “Fuck it” is actually a dismissal of what physical divisions will do, as Victoria Ruiz shouts; “A wall is just a wall / and nothing more at all!” The Latin punks therefore don’t put two fingers up to the system out of fear, but out of acknowledging the fact it will not succeed. AC
6. WAFIA – Bodies
5. IDLES – Mother
Some tracks demand your attention, and IDLES’ ‘Mother’ is one of them. I can remember hearing it, while flicking through vinyl in HMV and making a note on my phone to find out who it was. There is no doubt that ‘Brutalism’ is a brilliant debut from the Bristol punks; as the noisy guitars of Black Flag play Wire’s ‘Pink Flag’, but the brain-bashing brutality of ‘Mother’ reflects both the record and the world of 2017 politics. Like all the best punk tracks it begins big, with a bass driven ballistic missile, but ends up being nuanced rather than nuclear; with the subtle increase in the number of hours the mother works and the attack on sexual violence in the final verse. Plus, who can forget the epitaph to 2017: ‘the best way to scare a Tory is to read and get rich’. AC
4. Pussy Riot – Police State
The chorus of ‘Police State’ is not only one of the catchiest things Pussy Riot have ever done, but it definitively proves that punk doesn’t have to be abrasive to hit hard. Complementing their new poppy sound, their lyrics are genius. The chorus of “Oh my god, I’m so happy, I could die. Oh my god I’m so happy I could cry” flips throwaway expressions into half sarcastic responses to their subject matters.
In just 2 minutes 43, they reference mass surveillance (“Big smile for the camera, it’s always on”), compare our obedience to that of Jim Jones’ victims (“Drink the Kool-Aid”) and ‘celebrate’ the blind idiocy of the prison system (“No problems in paradise, we’ll lock them up”). But while other artists can educate their audience about the injustice of others, Pussy Riot can speak from experience. Their constant battles with the Russian establishment include police brutality, suppression of information and even imprisonment. So when they sing “They tapped my phone”, you know they’re telling the truth. TP
3. Alex The Astronaut – Not Worth Hiding
Following her debut EP To Whom It May Concern, released back in March, Alex The Astronaut has been making quite the impression throughout the music world, peaking with ‘Not Worth Hiding’. The track that was the first taste of her second EP See You Soon, all about the importance of self-importance it’s a must listen for anyone coming to terms with their true identity. Alex says about the track “for 16-year-old Alex and for anyone who’s struggling to let you know that you’re absolutely perfect just the way you are.” SD
2. Dream Wife – Somebody
Dream Wife have been challenging perceptions of femininity this year, most pointedly with ‘Somebody’, the resounding lyric “I am not my body, I am somebody” is quite simply iconic. Releasing the track on International Women’s Day, stating that it’s a ‘ballad for women’ and with the many many recent allegations through both the music and film industry (and beyond) surfacing recently, the track has only become more and more poignant as the year goes on. SD
1. Pins – Serve The Rich
“The track is about how sometimes we feel like we only exist to make money for other people,” say the band. “It’s a swizz. We are promised things by saviours, these people who have come to rescue us, but it’s not true. ‘Serve The Rich’ was my opportunity to assert myself. I’m saying that we as PINS, musicians, women, Labour voters and feminists, are here to save the kids, we’re here to save each other, we’re here to save ourselves.” KW
Want to listen to these on Spotify? Don’t worry, we have got you covered…