Punk rock has always been about fighting the good fight — or at least fighting something. And while the genre’s knee-jerk defiance can sometimes come off as canned rebellion (even The Clash’s war on the man wore thin post-Sandinista!), Propagandhi’s scathingly satiric style of punk is as brash and unflinching today as it ever has been. Systemic rage might be the oldest card in the genre’s handbook, but the Canadian band doesn’t use political angst as a crutch. It’s just in their DNA, and their message has only gotten more focused and incensed with every passing record. This anger hasn’t worn thin.
Neither has the band’s music, which has morphed over the years from adolescent, NOFX-inspired pop-punk into the grey area where punk and metal jostle for volume. But even after six records and 20 years of radically leftist metallic punk, the wounds are still fresh. Failed States, the band’s sixth full-length effort and first for Epitaph Records, is as vitriolic and sneering as anything the Manitoba band has ever done.
The band amplified its war cry considerably with the addition of second guitarist David Guillas, who added some girth to 2008’s Supporting Caste. The same density weighs heavy on Failed States, which cranks out 12 tracks of the trademark brutish, left-to-the-point-of-Marxist smart-ass punk rock the band has trafficked in for years. Album opener “Note to Self” eases into the record, staving off some of the manic energy in favor of alarming mid-tempo restraint. Fortunately, the band wastes little time retreating back to their patented breakneck tempos and Chomsky-touting political diatribes. From the rollicking drums that highlight tracks like “Devil’s Creek” to the manic hardcore freneticism of “Hadron Collision,” Propagandhi never fails in making their punishment still feel fresh.
Bitching and moaning might be a punk rock rite of passage, but nobody, not nobody, dishes out snot-nosed anti-authority better than these guys. While scores of pop punk and emo bands continue to mope halfheartedly over lost love and childish transgressions, Propagandhi’s tangible rage has always had eyes for larger, considerably weightier targets, and that combined with their musical prowess works in their favor once again here.
Essential Tracks: “Hadron Collision”, “Devil’s Creek”