Review Summary: Propagandhi doing what Propagandhi do best.
Time speaks for itself, there’s no escaping it. Punk rock has been going for the better part of 40 years, spurring on varying degrees of different styles from its most primitive form. But, style aside, the genre contains a visceral and honest energy which you can’t attain anywhere else; an outlet for expressing your opinion on serious problems occurring around the world – political or otherwise. It’s a quality that appeals to the masses who like punk music. Unfortunately though, the last couple of years has seen a lot of music, and bands, sending the genre into a pit of stagnation. What’s ironic is it appears to stem from an older demographic of band: bands like Rancid, Anti Flag and NOFX, who continue to churn out material best described as awkward, out of touch; or worse, bands like Dropkick Murphys, who are currently releasing their most vapid material to date. It’s not a great time to be a fan of the genre, it has to be said, and I’ve found it difficult immersing myself in any of punk’s most recent albums. Which is crazy when you think about what’s going on in today’s world. Why are none of these bands stepping up to the plate and sending a scathing message into the world anymore?
With punk’s current predicament, there is the odd exception however, and Canadian punk outfit Propagandhi are certainly one of them; a band that has always been a cut above the rest. The reason I rate them so highly is because when these chaps come back to the fold, you know they have something to say, and will conjure up a savage message, layered over the kind of raging energy the genre is sorely lacking at the minute. It’s Propagandhi’s uncompromising standpoint on politics – and as artists – that make their catalogue of albums so interesting. Their intelligent lyrics and honesty, matched by an impressive level of musicianship, have been core staples from day one, but it was when they scrapped their ska-dominated aesthetic for a razor-sharp sound of thrash-y guitars set to breakneck speeds, and the metal influence lending a hand, that really took the band to new levels artistically. And though this is nothing new, the results of Today’s Empire, Tomorrow’s Ashes
presented an album that had a ferocious political message, an abrasively heavier sound – albeit one which still contained melodic hooks – and a result which scrapped their playful edge, leaving only the harshest truths of which the band spoke of.
Since then the band have never looked back, fine-tuning and molding their sound from album to album. What Victory Lap
offers its fans isn’t far removed from the blueprint they’ve been using for the past 15 years or so; still projecting their thrash-y, juggernaut energy to get their topics across. The differences here are minute and it doesn’t offer any crazy diversions from what’s been done before, but what it lacks in innovation it makes up for with top-notch song-writing, placed in a field they are well accustomed to: from the blistering riffage and speed of “Comply/Resist” and “Letters to a Young Anus”, to the melancholic breather of “Nigredo” and benign “Lower Order (A Good Laugh)”. Victory Lap
relinquishes an excellent balance of different moods, making the LP engaging from start to finish. It also feels like a celebration of 31 years in the game, using a couple of elements from their playful past; a few tongue-in-cheek moments which balance the serious issues at hand, and make the album a little less crucial than the last handful of records. You can clearly tell these guys were out to bring a heavy message with them, but it seems they wanted to offer it in a less sombre way in some cases. The musicianship on offer here is exceptional: from the grooving gymnastics of the bass; the brain whirling drum fills; to the fantastic guitar solos and unforgiving tempos. Instrumentally this record, unsurprisingly, offers a countless supply of stellar moments, and really showcases the talent in the band – dare I say, more so here than anywhere else.
Most importantly, this LP offers Propagandhi in its purest form, and with the odd element tapping into their older works, it’ll appeal to every kind of Propagandhi fan. I do have one gripe with Victory Lap
though: the slightly weightier lean on their playful side has taken away some of the effect and edge the lyrics could’ve had at points. It’s a really minor hiccup, and one which will probably go unnoticed by many, but it’s something I couldn’t shake when listening to it. Still, it’s an aspect which can be easily overlooked, and isn’t big enough to hinder the enjoyment to be had here. The execution from the vocals has the same kind of unyielding conviction you’ve come to expect from the band: still hungry; still out to peel your face off. And the music supporting it is nothing short of excellent. Victory Lap
is hands down this year’s best punk album, and a record a lot of punk’s contemporaries needs to start paying attention to. While I feel this is their weakest offering post-Less Talk, More Rock
, it really doesn’t say much; Propagandhi continue to work at the same super-high standard they always have, and this album delivers on the same quality as previous records. Definitely not to be missed by anyone.
SPECIAL EDITION: 4 bonus tracks are available for the deluxe edition of the album.