The iconic punk bands who put their middle finger up to the political elite

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The iconic punk bands who put their middle finger up to the political elite

Words by Morgan Mangan

Wasted Youth, Government Issue and more had some strong words to say about the political system.

Listening and writing music can be an important coping mechanism and way to channel negative energy from political and social issues. Let’s look to some punk examples of this while we navigate Australia’s next prime ministerial window.

Ronald Reagan’s American presidency from 1981-1989 gave rise to countless political songs. From the start of his two-term presidency in 1981 came Wasted Youth and their album Reagan’s In and over the border Canadian band D.O.A. adding their support with their track ‘Fucked Up Ronnie’. 1982 saw the ever-catchy ‘Hey Ronnie’ by Government Issue, 1983 the 45-second track ‘Reagonomics’ from DRI.

By 1984 his presidency triggered the ‘Rock Against Reagan’ tour in the lead up to the next election and featured performances from Dead Kennedys, MDC, The Dicks, The Crucifucks, Minutemen and Reagan Youth. Not just a bunch of bands singing about the distaste for their government, the tour also worked to get attendees to register to vote and inform about issues around the government and why it was seen as problematic. Unfortunately, the tour didn’t stop Reagan being elected for a second term and four more years persisted of anti-Reagan themed songs from the North American hardcore and punk scene.

Discharge out of the UK released Warning: Her Majesty’s Government Can Seriously Damage Your Health EP in 1983.

With a running time of just under ten minutes, the songs include simple but impacting lyrics. Opening track ‘Warning’ sets the scene, “They stand on the outside and feed you shit” and “There is no truth in what they say/Propaganda and lies”. Following tracks work more as an influence for action with ‘In Defence of Our Future’ explaining that “In defence of our future/it’s up to you, you and I/to make a stand.

Released as the second single of the band’s 1992 album Dirty, Sonic Youth’s ‘Youth Against Fascism’ is a critical look at what was happening in the USA at the time. It is decorated with unreserved lyrics throughout, “Yeah the president sucks/He’s a war pig fuck.

More recently and closer to home, from track ‘Private Execution’ to ‘Taman Shud’ and ‘Then They Came For Me’, The Drones’ 2016 release Feelin’ Kinda Free explores themes of immigration, politics and the country’s history.

Bitch Diesel released ‘The Skull’ in 2018 with an accompanying video telling a story of Pauline Hanson and her influence.

The song touches on the ongoing racism and ignorance present in our mainstream media, “A place with nowhere safe for us/Pauline/A country full of ignorance/Pauline”. 

The next few years will be sure to evoke even more music commentary on the political ring, its approach to the environment and other various issues we face in our current day. As a last resort we can take a Total Control attitude towards it all by Laughing At The System.