It’s a dizzying time for Australian elections with campaigning going on in Queensland and the federal seats of Bennelong and New England. There are many things to find dispiriting about modern politics, and we humbly submit the lack of good election jingle is chief among those. As such, we thought it might be time to chart the finest moments in party political pop, in the hope at least one candidate will take up the challenge and revitalise this glorious tradition.
No. 5 — Katter’s Australian Party, untitled
“I know and I hope you know it too / I can assure you Bob Katter Jr will do the best for you.”
With his wild, ragged voice, unaccompanied by instruments (and unencumbered by traditional notions of melody and key), the member for Kennedy belongs firmly in the outsider music genre with the full-throated roar of Abner Jay and the shrill opera of Leona Anderson. And like all great outsider musicians, Katter hasn’t made his music widely available — a live recording of an intimate performance for the his party is a tantalising hint at his raw power.
“Some people say that I’m a renowned and legendary balladeer, but there are others that have thrown beer cans, but I think that was only because they were drunk,” he said at the time.
No. 4 — The Science Party, Metadata rap
When Kendrick Lamar released i, the lead single of 2015’s masterpiece To Pimp a Butterfly, many saw a nostalgia for the hip hop pioneers of the 1980s in its combination of a breezy Isley Brothers sample and a serious social message. Lamar is, in many ways, a peerless innovator, but ahead of him in this particular race was Science Party leader James Jansson with this 2014 release, which pairs a smooth disco beat to lyrics responding to the government’s then recently announced metadata plan. His flow doesn’t utilise complicated rhythms or multi-syllable rhymes, but it’s spritely, simple and direct (he loses quite a few marks for attempting to rhyme “policies” with “succeed” though). In keeping with his old-school aesthetic, his video eschews the excess we’ve come to associate with mainstream hip hop. He doesn’t need a fancy car, gold chains or glamorous women in his video — hell, he doesn’t even need all of his head to be in the shot.
No. 3 — Rob Coales, untitled
The recriminations from the WA Liberal’s election drubbing this year have been brutal and wide-ranging, but one candidate who can walk away proud is Thornlie’s Rob Coales. He didn’t win the seat, but — through song — he left a far more lasting and meaningful legacy. Starting with a jaunty syncopated rhythm, before easing into a melancholy verse, Rob Coales’ 33-second theme perhaps most closely resembles Belle and Sebastian’s exquisite piano-led atmospherics on the soundtrack of Todd Solondz’s Storytelling.
Like Thriller or Just before it, this is a song incomplete without the video made to accompany it, a montage of images showing the candidate involved in his community, including a winsomely unflattering photo at the line insisting Coales “knows how to have some fun”.
No. 2 — Rise Up Australia, self-titled
Steve Mannix has churned many a theme song for the far right, like In my own Country, a lush ballad about the creep of sharia law in Australia. He describes, on his Facebook page, watching RUA party leader Daniel Nalliah present, and feeling the song arrive, fully formed, like McCartney literally dreaming up Yesterday:
“As I listened to this Sri Lankan born man, I felt proud to be an Australian and to have been born in the very country that he was speaking so lovingly of…I was sitting at the keyboards on the platform at the time, and as Pastor Daniel continued to speak, I wrote what he was saying down on the flip side of some sheet music…”
Driven by a sustained groove, subtle guitar licks, and imagery borrowed from a United Patriots Front member tattoo (“Australia for Australians/The truth will be our sword”), the song, as with much of his work, thrives on the tension between the warm, reassuring hum of Mannix’s voice and the vaguely threatening implication of what he sings.
No. 1 — Family First, Vote For Henry
Vote for Henry is our clear No. 1. A glorious, ecstatic rush of melodic rock and roll, reaching back through Britpop, The Smiths and The Buzzcocks, to every group of melodically minded youngsters who thought a great hook could change the world. The lyrics are timeless; who doesn’t know what it’s like to have a business and a family, to love and to care, to provide and to share? Awash with glowing harmonies, uplifting yet infected with bittersweet longings, with that minor chord change as the verse resolves. Trust me, if, 20 years from now, you’re in a bar and Vote for Henry starts to play, you’ll feel an arm over your shoulder, whether it’s a dear friend or a perfect stranger, you will grin at one another, fill your lungs, and sing as one:
“Henry, Henry, let’s all vote for Henry…”