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5 Bush Era Political Albums You Need to Listen to Right Now

A collage of all the covers to the albums discussed (except Anti-Flag)

The stolen election of George W. Bush signaled a shift away from the libertine neoliberalism of the Clinton era. Elected on a platform of immigration reform and faith based educational initiatives, Bush was flung into the role of patriotic icon 9 months into his presidency when operatives from Al Qa'ida hijacked 4 airplanes and flew 3 of them into the Twin Towers and Pentagon.

Very quickly, we saw the passage of the PATRIOT Act which did away with many privacy protections US residents enjoyed as well as the creation of the Department of Homeland Security which has operated as a rogue agency since its inception. This era also saw a renaissance of political music seeing the release of 2 Rock Against Bush compilation albums.

Bands that hadn't billed themselves as political were suddenly injecting anti-war rhetoric into their lyrics. Political acts that had occupied the fringes of the industry began finding a mainstream audience. Here are 5 albums (actually more than that) for you to check out right now.

5. ...And We Washed Our Weapons in the Sea - Frodus (2001)

This is honestly more of a personal favorite than a particularly popular album from that era. But it was popular enough for Thrice to do an acoustic cover of The Earth Isn't Humming. <link cover>

Known variously as Frodus Conglomerate International and the Frodus Deposit Insurance Corporation, Frodus was one of several post-hardcore bands from DC that fashioned itself as a political party, a corporation, and basically any organization other than a band.

…And We Washed Our Weapons in the Sea is a journey of cryptic lyrics and odd instrumental interludes. The album starts off strong with Red Bull of Juarez and ebbs and flows to a crescendo with Year of the Hex, receding to a denouement with the mellow, instrumental Title Track.

4. Black Holes and Revelations - Muse (2006)

When I originally wrote this list, I had Mobilize and Underground Network by Anti-Flag in this slot. You can read about why I've decided to remove them. These albums are an absolute time capsule of the beginning of the Bush regime, but please pirate them if you do want to give them a listen.

I decided to replace them with Muse's 4th studio album which saw them dive deeper into the political themes they had begun to develop in their previous album Absolution (2003). From start to finish, Matt Bellamy brings his apocryphal, sci fi lyrical style against the Global War on Terror and the authoritarianism it wrought.

My favorite tracks are the first and last ones which makes it really easy to listen to all the way through. There isn't really a wasted track on this album, and although a song like Hoodoo might not be able to stand on its own, it serves as an epic introduction to Knights of Cydonia, my favorite track on the album.

3. Welcome to Jamrock - Damian Marley (2005)

My favorite of the Marley sons, Damian's third studio album is a tour de force of reggae hip hop. The album opens with a sample of Haile Selassie I followed by an eschatological soliloquy by Bunny Wailer and a sample of Marcus Garvey, after which Marley absolutely DROPS into the beat in rapidfire patois.

The album is packed to the gills with bangers. Besides political jams, Marley also gives us an assortment of ballads and braggadocio that 90s and early 2000s hip hop was known for.

The title track is the only song that's censored, with the homophobic slur "funny man" spliced out of the mix, but otherwise goes hard. An alternate uncensored version has been floating around the internet, and I have a copy if you can't find it.

If you're listening to the album strictly for politics, check out the tracks "Confrontation", "Welcome to Jamrock", "Move!", "Road to Zion", and "We're Gonna Make It", but the album is really worth listening to all the way through.

2. The Richest Man in Babylon - The Cosmic Game - Thievery Corporation (2002 - 2005)

I couldn't choose between these two Thievery Corporation releases, so I have them both on the list. Legends of the downtempo and world fusion genres, this DC band always comes through with psychedelic political jams.

Mixing reggae, hip hop, rock, and a variety of regional folk styles, Thievery Corp does not let a track go to waste. They almost always play with a featured artist on vocals including major celebs like David Byrne and Perry Farrell as well as lesser known regulars like Sleepy Wonder and Sista Pat.

There's not really such a thing as a bad Thievery Corporation album, so this can be your introduction to the band if you are unfamiliar. Favorites off of Richest Man include "State of the Union", "Liberation Front", and the title track. Favorites off of The Cosmic Game include "Warning Shots", "Amerimacka", and "Wires and Watchtowers."

1. Party Music - The Coup (2001)

Bay Area communist G funk all stars The Coup finished recording their 4th album in the summer of 2001, and were slated to release it in September. But at the very last minute they had to postpone their release so they could change the cover. Here's the original cover:

The album is an absolute showcase of The Coup's style and substance from the odd metered "5 Million Ways to Kill a CEO" to the devious "Get Up" featuring dead prez. Lyricist Boots Riley is at his peak on this album, packing his rhymes with communist puns on gangsta culture and a few reimagined interpolations of famous hip hop songs.

The album doesn't let politics get in the way of creating some absolute bangers for the club. You might want to start with the volume down for the opening track "Everything" because it absolutely slams with bass. Other tracks for the dancefloor include "Ghetto Manifesto", "Pork and Beef", and the closing track "Lazymuthafucka."

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I'm planning on doing several more of these top albums lists. If you want to keep up with me, and get notified when I have a new post, sign up for my newsletter. Get event listings, learn about radical orgs, and read stories from the front lines of the struggle for liberation.


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