When I, and most people with me, think of Propagandhi today, we think of a bunch of grumpy old cynics who emerge once a decade to deliver a slab of disgruntled, political progressive thrash. However, everyone was young once, and so were propagandhi back in 1993 (that's right - predating the 1994 "punk" rock explosion). Back then, they were revolutionary bubble gum-punks who played fast, happy-go-pissed-off skatepunk for a select audience, which got them signed to up-and-coming label Fat Wreck (which I assume needs no further introduction). In the vein of then only labelmates Lagwagon, this record is filled with major key hooks and catchy riffs (as opposed to the significantly more somber and serious Propagandhi of latter days).
Opening the album is "Anti-Manifesto
" (which could be considered the album's single, since it appeared on the first Fat compilation, "Fat Music for Fat People
") sets the tone for the music, and a closer look at the lyrics should (but not necessarily "would") scare away the most mindless and shallow of listeners, as they profess their strive to be something more than a faded sticker on a skateboard. That being said and sung, the band plows through a plethora of subjects, all of them being on the opinionated side of things and most of them being verbal boots to the crotch of modern society. Like second track "Head? Chest? Or Foot?
" and third track "Hate, Myth, Muscle, Etiquette
" alike, both sharing the same subtext; get off your as
s and do something about the state of the shi
thole we're living in. You need a good kick in the as
s; oppose them or let them destroy us.
As history would tell us, then bass player John Samson would later go on to form emo-rock group The Weakerthans, and his penchant for cutesy, self-deprecating prose is already evident here, in the first verse of "Showdown (G.E./P.)
" (G.E. being short for John's part of the song, "Green Eyes
" and P being short for some big word that's the title of Chris' part of the song). A bit malplaced, one could think. And yes, it is. But if you think about it, it's no more out of place than ditzy comic relief song "Ska Sucks
" - an anti-ska ska song is just the kind of pre-pubescent humor Propagandhi grew out of, for better or for worse. For what it is, the "a message to you, Rudy"-reference is a chuckle.
But you can always trust Propagandhi to always shift back into "agitated"-mode before too long, and they never let you down. Song titles like "Middle Finger Response
", "Stick the Fucking Flag up Your Goddam Ass, You Sonofabitch
" and "Fuck Machine
" would probably warrant a "Parental Advisory"-sticker on the cover, but they speak their clear language. Whether speeding at 200BPM through poppy numbers about sexism and the apathetic middle class or breaking it down with minor key guitar picking while dissecting militarism and fatuous patriotism, Propagandhi does it with the perfect balance between intelligent dogma and blatant fuc
k you's. Even second novelty song, reggae-spoof "Haille Selassie, Up Your Ass
", delivers a sharp-teethed message against organized fanaticism and the militarism it inevitably leads to.
Closing the album is the track most reminiscent of today's more disheartened Propagandhi - "Who Will Help Me Bake this Bread?
" is a borderline-desperate plea for people to actually utilize the independent mind they were born with, this message brought to you by one of the best songs on the album, alongside the opening track and "Stick the Fucking Flag Up Your
"-gah, you know which one I mean. After the last real song, the boys manage to squeeze in yet another joke-song with a cover of Cheap Trick's "I Want You to Want Me
" (cleaverly retitled "i want ü 2 vant me
") in classic skatecore manner, and leading that into 7 tracks of the members saying the word "fuc
k" a bunch of times. Whether or not this is meant to further cement their urgent message is still unclear to me.
With a sound influenced by a few bands (like NOFX and RKL) and stolen by so many more (like NOFX), this album is nothing short of a classic. And even though Propagandhi may denounce it now, it's a prime example of how fast, melodic skate punk should
be played, and it stands its ground to this day. The only reason this reviewer doesn't give it a full score is either that he's bitter or because sometimes impact is sacrificed for slapstick.