by Chris Jarvis
We return with a round-up of the best radical music from the past year!
20. Idles – Joy as an Act of Resistance
Often credited for bringing mainstream relevance back to punk music by journalists with no knowledge of the genre, Idles are nonetheless continuing to bring their own iterations of punk to new audiences. Their second album Joy as an Act of Resistance is probably more mature and refined than their debut, but misses the raw energy of its predecessor. It’s saved by those songs that do maintain that rawness, with Great the obvious example.
19. The Menstrual Cramps – Free Bleedin’
With song titles like Tory Scum, there’s no prizes for guessing the political views of The Menstrual Cramps. Their politics undoubtedly runs right through all of this album. But so too does the lengthy list of genres they’ve incorporated into their sound. Ranging from garage punk to post-punk and even some oi influences at times, Free Bleedin’ is a varied and fun 14 tracks raging against everything that’s wrong with the world.
18. Manic Street Preachers – Resistance is Futile
Legendary Welsh rockers Manic Street Preachers are no strangers to mixing politics with their music, with a long history through songs about the Spanish Civil War, the Miner’s Strike or racism in Reagan’s America. Resistance is Futile continues in that tradition, lamenting the failures and decline of British socialism and chronicling the justice for Hillsborough campaign. Their best release since 2009’s Journal for Plague Lovers, this captures the very best of that iconic Manics sound.
17. Pussy Riot – Bad Girls
In 2016, Pussy Riot brought us Make America Great Again and Straight Outta Vagina. In 2017 they released the excellent Police State. 2018 has brought three new tracks, the best of which is the Bad Girls, featuring the immortal lines: “Good girls pray to a man with a beard, but God is a woman and she’s deaf and she’s queer.”
16. Dubioza Kolektiv – Rijaliti
The ever experimenting dub-rockers, advocates of peer-to-peer music sharing and notoriously entertaining live performers Dubioza Kolektiv have taken an amusing critique on the contemporary music industry and TV talent competitions in their latest single – the unforgettable Rijaliti.
15. War on Women – Capture the Flag
2018 has seen a bumper crop of radical hardcore punk. War on Women’s latest, Capture the Flag, is part of that. Militantly anti-capitalist and feminist, the album is just over 30 minutes of loud, fast and heavy rage.
14. Super Unison – Stella
Screaming resistance to white nationalism and patriarchy, Stella is an impressive exploration. Hardcore punk runs throughout, but at times – as in Comfort and Falcon, this is slowed almost laboriously into stretched segments with metal elements seeping in. While this isn’t the best hardcore album of the year (that’s still to come!), it’s probably the most ambitious.
13. Dream Nails – Double A Side
If you’ve heard DIY by Dream Nails, you might have thought it wasn’t possible to produce a catchier fast punk song. Vagina Police from Double A Side comes pretty close. And rounding off this demo the tempo-shifting Fascism is Coming shows that Dream Nails are much more than an addictive rapid fire punk band.
12. Petrol Girls – The Future is Dark
A welcome follow up to 2016 debut album Talk of Violence, the 3-track EP reminds just how good Petrol Girls are, and how much they could shape the UK punk scene. Perhaps showing this best is the call to arms Strike with its incendiary sections, melodic breakdowns and political provocations.
11. Gouge Away – Burnt Sugar
With a sound akin to the former entry, only a little bit slowed down, a little less complex and a little bit shoutier, Gouge Away’s second full-length album is everything you could want from a modern hardcore record. It also moves away from the genre’s cliches which sometimes crept into their debut, and lyrically takes a fierce approach to its tackling of mental health struggles.
10. Rico Nasty – Nasty
The 90 second opener Bitch I’m Nasty declares “I’m screamin’, ‘Fuck Trump! Black girls, stand up!’” and acts the perfect gateway to the best full length rap release of 2018. That tone is maintained right up to the penultimate and stand out track Rage, a heavy hip-hop tune with a cathartic scream-a-long chorus.
9. Peach Club – Cherry Baby
Norwich’s very own Peach Club are a wonderful rekindling of 90s Riot Grrrl. With a sound equidistant between 7 Year Bitch and Bratmobile, Cherry Baby isn’t the only music they’ve released this year, but it is the best.
8. New Town Kings – Reach Out
Reach Out is the first New Town Kings album since Dabs Bonner took over vocal duties. It may have been a long time coming, but it has definitely been worth the wait. Their sound has been honed and cleaned up, leaving this bouncing release drifting easily between upbeat ska and slow grooving reggae vibes.
7. Lobster – Workless Work Songs
Birmingham’s reggae punks Lobster treated us to a live demo this year – Workless Work Songs. With a gloomy two-tone feel, it picks apart the persistent tripartite economic evils of unemployment, precarious labour and a punitive benefits system. Few songs sound better placed as the soundtrack to 21st century Tory Britain.
6. Lowkey – Unplugged, Vol. 1
Unplugged, Vol 1 is a six track EP re-releasing a collection of earlier Lowkey songs, stripped back with just a piano accompaniment and backing vocals from Kaia. It showcases and reinforces Lowkey’s phenomenal lyricism and talent, with the reworked Alphabet Assassin demonstrating this best. Ghosts of Grenfell is of course haunting, and the removal of the backing beats on this version highlights the terror of the tragedy more than the original captured.
5. Colour Me Wednesday – Counting Pennies in the Afterlife
Taking a trip to Dovetown is always a joy. And the long awaited Counting Pennies in the Afterlife is just that. In the intervening years since their last full-length release, Colour Me Wednesday have been a little overshadowed by Harriet Doveton’s other project – The Tuts. But this album tells you that Colour Me Wednesday are never to be overlooked. It’s 11 tracks of wall to wall, top of the range indie-pop that deserves to be listened to again and again and again.
4. Taj Weekes & Adowa – To All My Relations
St Lucian born Taj Weekes’ revolutionary sounds stand in the long tradition of reggae rebel music. To All My Relations is an important contribution to that tradition, and arguably is Taj Weekes & Adowa at their absolute best. Whether it’s in his tribute to indigenous resistance to fossil fuel extraction in Standing Rock, the uncompromising attack on the pharmaceutical industry in Big Pharma, or the no-holds-barred critique of American politics Narcissist, Taj Weekes blends beautifully warm and upbeat reggae with a radical take-down of the globe’s biggest ills.
3. Childish Gambino – This is America
Not since Beyonce’s Lemonade has a political music release garnered as much attention as This is America did. Released in May, its unique sound and accompanying moving video sparked endless debate and discussions on race and violence in the USA. The video, filled with allusions to racism in American history and its intersections with violence has been viewed over 400 million times on YouTube and became an overnight hit. It’s impact in triggering political conversation in 2018 is therefore unparalleled. Even putting the politics aside, This is America is impossibly infectious and is Childish Gambino’s best output to date.
2. Sleaford Mods – Sleaford Mods
Sadly, we have to wait until 2019 to hear the next Sleaford Mods album. But in 2018, we were blessed with a five track EP. As ever, it’s packed full of big beats and angry rants. The self-titled EP opens with the eerie Stick in a Five and Go, which tells a fictional story of front-man Jason Williamson tracking down and paying a visit to someone who’d be sending him abuse on Twitter. That powerfully monotonous revenge thriller then gives way to Bang Someone Out. Already known for his witty and damning take-downs of contemporary society and politics. In the same way that Jobseeker did a decade a go, Bang Someone Out encapsulates so much of what is wrong with our welfare system in the line “It’s fit for work if it can shit and stare”. As you’d expect, Sleaford Mods continues in much the same vein – thudding bass-lines, aggressive beats and Williamson’s poetic anger. While we have to wait until next year for the new album, this has certainly whet the appetite.
1. Muncie Girls – Fixed Ideals
Muncie Girls are utterly peerless. And with each and every piece of music they release, they get better and better. They’re latest offering – Fixed Ideals – is no exception. It starts with the brilliant Jeremy that contains the unparalleled line: “I’m so angry, I’m gonna get a tattoo, that says fuck Jeremy Clarkson, and fuck you too”. That rolls neatly into the lead single Picture of Health, a catchy and melodic pop-punk album which sets the tone for much of the rest of the album, introducing the overarching themes of mental health struggles which run throughout. This is most perfectly captured in the captivating Clinic.
Remarkably, Fixed Ideals doesn’t let up for a second, with start to finish excellence. If pushed to pick out the highlights, the rage against capitalism and patriarchy in less than 2 minutes that is Locked Up, the ambient Bubble Bath and the bouncy Isn’t Life Funny, stand tall. But it is the album as a whole, the clever ways it humanises its political commentary, and the fact that you will never get bored of listening to it that cements Muncie Girls as probably the most exciting band on the UK punk scene today.
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