Let’s just get this out of the way – and it might sound trite but it’s not. I say this wholeheartedly and unequivocally. Propaghandi changed my life. There aren’t many bands who did what they did and continue to do to me.
This band that I first got into some twenty plus years go remain a band who has put out some of the most uncompromising, thought-provoking, musically progressive/challenging and inspiring music, who’s sound continues to evolve and who’s lyrics beg questions and make assertions most of us only dream of whilst maintaining a sense of humour.
From the first time I heard their song, Anti Manifesto (from 1994’s How to Clean Everything) they had me at “we strive for something more, than a faded sticker on a skateboard”… let alone song titles like Stick That Fucking Flag Up Your Goddam Ass, You Sonofabitch I was hooked.
Their evolution has seen them grow, as they do, as one does (as I do?), from the youthful, more “basic” points and coincidentally “simpler” music (but the riffs were ALWAYS a cut above any bands of their ilk, Chris Hannah is a motherfucker on guitar) of albums like the more melodic punk of How to Clean Everything, the harder rock edge of Less Talk, More Rock to the more introspective, heartfelt and yet sadder and significantly wider points made on albums like Potemkin City Limits, Supporting Caste and Failed States.
Like the content of the songs of the later albums, shit gets heavier. Denser ideas both musically and lyrically. Riffs most thrash merchants would kill for. This new album is no exception.
A Propaghandi album isn’t listened to, it’s absorbed. When you first listen, you’re listening to where they’ve gone musically (this album being the first featuring new guitar player Sulynn Hago) and it excites you immediately (holy shit! How’s those fucking riffs!)… but six months from now, it will be your FAVOURITE album that you listen to every day for another six months.
Opener and album title track Victory Lap starts with a thunderous riff and drum attack. The harmonised guitar and incredible riffage is stuff that Hetfield would swap millions to be able to come up with.
The subject matter, a lamentation of just how we got here, with a couple of brilliant Chris Hannah jokes to make the Armageddon a little more bearable (and did I mention the riffs?), “When the free-market fundamentalist steps on a roadside bomb outside Kandahar, bleeding to death, I swear to Ayn Rand, I’ll ask if he needs an invisible hand”. (ok a bit to google there but it’s worth it)
Content wise this is a band and people struggling at odds with a world where (according to the presser) “a landscape in which fascism is—among a certain crowd—suddenly trendy” and there’s plenty to digest in that, in the humourous, the enraging and the terrifying.
There are some very deep personal songs as well, dealing with loss and questioning around that. This is where (former I spy man) bassist Todd Kowalski’s songs shine, providing a heartfelt counterpoint to Chris’s righteous indignation. It’s his songs that often leave you with a lump in your throat (Supporting Caste’s Night Letters for example will kill you), but to be fair, both have moved further and further toward these emotional explorations and how they relate to the wider world. (Dear Coaches Corner anyone?)
On the first few listens one can already tell this will be the album I am proselytising about in a few short months, whether it’s the juxtaposition of the heaviest intro on the album segueing into one of the most melodic songs on the record on Lower Order, the goose bumps I get from When All Your Fears Collide and Call Before You Dig or just the flat our riffery.
There are no “bad” Propaghandi albums, but in the canon, this is one of the “really really good” ones (as opposed to the “really good” ones). At both times, heavier and more melodic than their last one.
They’ve done it again!
Propaghandi will release Victory Lap through Epitaph Records on September 29th.