Review Summary: Go ahead and sing you guys! Sing you guys!In 2009's Supporting Caste, Propagandhi more or less perfected the increasingly frantic sound they had been developing for the better part of a decade. The album was not only a fusion of the melodic punk rock sound Propagandhi had built their early career on and their thrashier influences, but also saw songwriters Chris Hannah and Todd Kowalski at their most focused and meticulous. "Dear Coach's Corner" perhaps best exemplifies this improvement; Propagandhi opens with some of the most explosive guitar work they've put to record, but quickly transition into a more sombre atmosphere befitting of Hannah's poignant diatribe against militarism and nationalism in Canadian cultural institutions.
While not everyone will always agree with Propagandhi's world-view, no one can doubt their dedication to activism in the 20 years since they made their full-length debut with How to Clean Everything. On their sixth album, Failed States, it's clear that Propagandhi are still on a warpath of political and social awareness, and their increasingly thrash-influenced sound shows no signs that the fire in their bellies will be going out anytime soon. More amazing than their ability to stay engaged, however, is how much denser and more nuanced they are overall.
Propagandhi are the rare punk band you can count on to work the phrase “muckraking journalist” into the lyrics of a song, as frontman Chris Hannah does right at the top of Failed States, the long-running Canadian group’s first disc for Epitaph. That new label partnership makes sense: Like Epitaph founder Brett Gurewitz’s Bad Religion, Propagandhi lob bombs of radical-humanist invective the way most bands deploy riffs. Which isn’t to say that Hannah and his bandmates don’t prize riffs; indeed, tightly coiled shredfests like “Cognitive Suicide” and “Devil’s Creek” demonstrate how much they’ve grown up (without mellowing out) since their early-’90s skate-rat days.
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.
Never ones to make the same album twice, Winnipeg, MB punks Propagandhi have followed up 2009's Supporting Caste with a record that sounds like an entirely different band. While that disc had a lot of controlled, smooth melodic punk on it, this one is filled with chaos ? unhinged, metallic guitar work flying off of drums that are no longer on the map, in terms of frantic playing. While opener "Note to Self" is the calm before the storm, the rest of the album is the storm in a big way no one could have predicted.