With a career stretching back some 30 years, you’d imagine socio-political punks Propagandhi were preaching to the choir by now. That they continue to draw new people to the cause – with the fire and rage undimmed – just proves they’re some of the sharpest commentators out there.
‘Victory Lap’ – the Manitoban group’s seventh full-length – is justifiably on-point, taking aim at North America’s fractured society and in particular Donald Trump’s frightening rhetoric. Propagandhi were built for tackling such challenges, so it’s no surprise that ‘Victory Lap’ finds Chris Hannah and Co at their forthright, confrontational best.
In fact, even with a line-up shift – Sulynn Hago joining as a new guitarist – it feels like the band haven’t missed a beat, despite a five-year gap between ‘Victory Lap’ and the critically-acclaimed ‘Failed States’. If anything, there’s a renewed vigour to their thrashy punk rock attacks; an almost certain result of the new blood and an absolute deluge of potential material to draw upon.
Musically, ‘Victory Lap’ is as hard-edged as ever, blessed with some of the most frenzied guitar work you’ll hear all year. There’s a metallic tinge to the charged ‘Comply/ Resist’ and ‘Letters To A Young Anus’ that is chaotic and urgent, especially when married with the group’s enduring punk sensibilities. Elsewhere, ‘Lower Order (A Good Laugh)’ offers smart food for thought in a moment of quiet reflection. It’s still a bruising song, heavy on lyrical introspection.
As ever – and even taking account of the aforementioned change of pace – there’s a relentlessness to Propagandhi’s delivery that feels like you’ve been bludgeoned by the final third. But with many tracks failing to get past the three minute mark, such intensity is tempered by merciful brevity. And, of course, it helps that the group’s songwriting is first class. ‘Victory Lap’ is devoid of empty platitudes and cheap sloganeering, instead making its points through some keen lyricism and wry observations. There are moments of gallows humour – even absurdity – but ‘Victory Lap’ makes a number of social comments and makes them beautifully.
Ultimately, if you’re not on board with Propagandhi’s mission statement, ‘Victory Lap’ probably won’t be the record to entice you in. Yet it’s also a fiery, passionate and perfectly-constructed annotation of today’s societal ills – and few do such dissections better than Propagandhi…
‘Victory Lap’ by Propagandhi is out now on Epitaph Records.
Words by Rob Mair (@BobNightMair)