Canadian punk veterans Propagandhi are one of those rare bands that I find among my iTunes collection. Rare in the fact that, in my opinion, they do not have a dud album, also rare is the fact that I like their new stuff better than their older stuff; a pattern that is continued with the release of their fifth album A Supporting Caste. Never a band to shy away from political beliefs they hold dear to their hearts Propagandhi pull out all the stops on their 2009 release; Chris Hanna’s lyrics are a lesson in passionate song writing and provide a vehicle in which he gets his, and the bands, message out to a wider audience. His lead guitar work is first rate as usual and the vocals are still spat out in that hoarse, forceful manner that has been a trademark since the Today’s Empires, Tomorrow’s Ashes album; I have to admit I am a bit of a Hanna fan boy and his efforts on this album set Propagandhi streets ahead of most in the genre; both from the technical side and lyrically.
Another side of the band that impresses me greatly is the dedication to causes they promote in their songs; having been heavily involved in many activist movements promoting both human and animal rights. Now I don’t always agree with everything they promote but I am always stunned by people that have the constitution to take on the status quo and question things that they feel are wrong in the world (probably got something to do with my own strict adherence to authority). Women’s rights in Afghanistan, veganism, Amnesty International and raising awareness of Haiti’s vulnerability to foreign investment and the pitfalls that could befall the country if it is rebuilt with business in mind and not the Haitian people following 2010’s deadly earthquake. Their website provides a ton of information and links to the various NGO’s site; it is a strictly left leaning view the band takes and one must always be certain to gain all the facts before making up their mind but their dedication to the causes can never be questioned.
Some highlights from the album are:
“Cause history observes only the pornography of force”
Fascinating song concerning the way that history is always written by the victors of wars, it also deals with the predominance that Christianity plays; casting many great men and women to the fringes of history while mainstream religions promote the teachings of men and women who may or may not even exist. The outro to the song reasons that going against the grain is the only way to go when in reality we’re never to remembered anyway.
“A piece of advice: if you’re cast on thin ice, you may as well dance. Do what you feel you must, but as for me I was not put upon this earth to subjugate or serve.”
Fantastic start and a well deserved title track on a great album.
“Dear Ron MacLean. Dear Coachs Corner. Im writing in order for someone to explain to my niece the distinction between these mandatory pre-game group rites of submission and the rallies at Nuremburg.”
Lyrically this song is a statement against the merging of sporting events with military propaganda; the song taking the form of a question addressed to the host of a popular hockey telecast in Canada, Ron Mclean, lurching from comparisons to the Nazi rallies of the late 1930s to railing against the conservative, troop praising rants by McLean’s long-time co host Don Cherry.
“a strange and bitter fruit that sad old man beside you keeps feeding to young minds as virtue. It takes a village to raise a child but just a flag to raze the children until they’re nothing more than ballast for fulfilling a madman’s dream of a paradise where complexity is reduced to black and white.”
A brilliant observation of the role mainstream media plays today in normalising military actions and the way it goes about creating myths surrounding those involved.
Hanna’s passion for animal rights comes through in this track; recounting the true story of Francis the pig, who escaped from an Alberta abattoir in 1990 and roamed free for 5 months before capture. The abattoir in question now has a bronze statue of Francis at the front of their factory and the story has become a novelty in the region.
“The panic grew as the humans stalked among them. When the screaming began, Francis shut his eyes and felt the hand of inhumanity brush over him. But his would-be killer’s back turned for a moment and a blinding ray of light spread across the floor. In a crimson pool he saw his own reflection as he bolted for the door.”
The song does everything it sets out to achieve and is a fantastic example of smart, well written, political punk; it made me, at least, questions the hypocrisy surrounding supposed “humane” killing of animals and provoked research into the topic. Hanna’s ability to create empathy for Francis in the outro to the song causes the hair to stand on the back of my head and displays perfectly the stance that Hanna takes, a blurring of lines between animals and humans, it’s a fascinating insight into what drives people pursuing veganism
“And where for 5 months he ran free and replayed his only fond memory just a warm and distant dream of his mother’s loving eyes upon him. Francis made it farther than she did a quarter mile just short of the city limits they finally captured him.”
Goddamn that final section gets me every time!! Now I’m not about to jump on the vegan bandwagon but as I always say, very impressed by people who back their beliefs with actions and that is one thing that you could never accuse the guys from Propagandhi of not doing.
If you have any interest in fast, melodic, technical music and have yet to stumble onto any of the bands material then I can wholeheartedly recommend anything from the bands discography. But Supporting Caste, is for me, the high water mark, an album that leaves nothing to the imagination, displaying a mixture of tight musicianship with heartfelt lyrics; daring the listener to question the norm and backing the songwriting with a mountain of information that will have you googling for days.