As mainstream music becomes increasingly apolitical, shallow, and generally unable (or unwilling) to articulate the politically unstable nature of contemporary life, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the greatest punk rock political protest songs ever written and recorded.
1. The Clash – Guns of Brixton
The song reflects the repression and hardships experienced by immigrant communities living in London during the late 70s. Police repression, along with an economic recessions, were causing mounting tensions all over the UK. These tension’s exploded during the Brixton Riots, which occurred two years after the songs release.
2. Dead Kennedys – Nazi Punks Fuck Off
Punk music is not known for it subtlety and the Dead Kennedys are nothing if not punk. From the title down to every line of the lyrics, this anti-facist anthem is direct and unequivocal with its message. Being punk is not about your attire, “Punk means thinking for yourself.”
3. Stiff Little Fingers – Alternative Ulster
When journalist Gordon Ogilvie suggested to Northern Irish band, Stiff Little Fingers, that they write some songs about the Troubles they took the advice to heart. In 1979 they released their first album, Inflammable Material, that focused exclusively on the Troubles and the hardships of living in Northern Ireland around that time. The albums first single was called Suspect Device, but the record’s defining song was Alternative Ulster.
The song talks about the army roaming the streets of Belfast and of the repression being doled out by the RUC (police). In the chorus the band calls for change, saying what everyone needs is an, “Alternative Ulster,” before telling people to, “grab it and change it, it’s yours!”
4. Pixes – Monkey Gone to Heaven
Described by Rolling Stone as a, “compelling meditation on God and garbage,” Monkey Gone to Heaven is more apt today, in a world that is increasingly rocked by the consequences of climate change and environmental destruction, than it has ever been. Will we be in time to stop this little monkey going to heaven?
5. Leftover Crack – So You Wanna Be A Cop
Contemporary hardcore punk doesn’t come edgier or more political than when it comes from Leftover Crack. Capturing the essence of anti-police sentiment in the United States, the lyrics go: “So you wanna wear blue, and prey on the people, go above the constitution where all men are equal, beat down the poor, the working class core, you’re a class trading motherf**king rich man’s whore.”
6. Stray from the Path – Good Night Alt Right
Stray from the Path have cleverly updated the classic anti-facist slogan, “Good Night White Pride” for the 21st century: Good Night Alt Right. The modern incarnation of the middle class Nazi prefers to call themselves alt right, rather than using politically sensitive, and potentially alienating, terms such as fascist and nazi.
The song is unabashed in its stance against the rise of alt right fascism: “You just got knocked the fuck out, the punishment fits the crime, so keep your head held high and you’ll find out why, that this raised fist ain’t afraid to fly.”
The band became a viral sensation when someone added the song to a clip of an alt right nazi being knocked out by a single punch in Seattle in 2017. Unfortunately we couldn’t find this particular video, so if you know where to find it please post a link in the comments section below.
7. Anti-Flag – Die For Your Government
Die For Your Government is another blunt, in-your-face punk rock protest song that rallies against the American military. The song is essentially a list of war crimes perpetrated by the USA with a focus on how the government fails to even look after its own people, especially veterans.
Share your favourite punk rock protest songs in the comments below. Let’s get angry together!