Failed States

“We live ourselves as rational creatures. But is it rational to wait like sheep in a pen as [they] steer us to mass extension? Why continue to obey the laws and dictates of our executioners?” – Chris Hedges.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few months, you’re probably already aware that Winnipeg’s favourite pro-feminist, anti-fascist, animal-friendly, gay-positive punk rock band just released their sixth full-length record.

There’s also a very strong possibility that if you’re reading this article, you’re one of the hoards of faithful listeners who feverishly ran down to their local record store to pick up a copy. At any rate, if you haven’t already jumped aboard the Propagandhi bandwagon after Today’s Empires, Tomorrow’s Ashes (2001); Potemkin City Limits (2005); or most recently, Supporting Caste (2009) it’s time that you got your figurative head out of your metaphorical ass and paid attention. Forget the adolescent, insert-expletive-here, NOFX skate-punk days of old – this is Propagandhi circa 2012.

Whether intentional or happenstance, the timing of Failed States seems appropriate amid the stench wafting north from yet another US presidential election cycle. It also provides a much-needed musical catharsis to the daily onslaught of worn out political clichés and bullshit politicians infiltrating our collective consciousness.

Released on California indie-heavyweight Epitaph Records, Failed States follows Propagandhi’s already impressive career arc with yet another installment of crushing thrash/metal/punk rock mayhem. Much like Potemkin City Limits and Supporting Caste, Failed States delves further into a heavier, more metallic genre than previous releases.

Songwriters Chris Hannah and Todd “the Rodd” Kowalski showcase their songwriting proficiency, blending adventurous, 80s inspired riffage with much more expansive, dynamic soundscapes than we’ve heard on previous releases. Credit should also be given to guitarist David “the Beaver” Guillas, as I’m sure his background with experimental instrumental trio Giant Sons helped expand Propagandhi’s sound.

Opening track, “Note To Self,” builds from a subdued guitar melody into a driving, mid-tempo onslaught on political corruption and societal apathy (“How does it make you feel to know you voted for this?”), while title track, “Failed States,” “Hadron Collision,” and manic, riff-heavy “Status Update” affirm that they’re still in love with shredding guitars at breakneck speeds. “Unscripted Moment” and “Duplicate Keys Icaro (An Interim Report)” melodically explore more atmospheric elements, as standout track “Rattan Cane” aggressively blasts and broods its way through ideological darkness and conjures nightmarish images of (very real) mass-religious indoctrination.

The longevity and relevance of Propagandhi seems tied directly to their ability to reinvent themselves with each release. While other bands seem content stagnating in their respective genres, Failed States showcases Propagandhi as band that’s more focused and driven than ever.  I’m sure there will be plenty of debate whether Failed States tops previous efforts, but I suspect that it has already earned a top spot among many listeners’ top albums of 2012.