Propagandhi album review: ‘Failed States’

November 1, 2012
PROPAGANDHI
“Failed States”

Kindred spirits: Bad Religion, Metallica, Voivod

Show: With Off With Their Heads and the Menzingers on Friday at the Rock & Roll Hotel. Show starts at 8 p.m. 202-388- 7625. www.rockandrollhoteldc.com. $18 in advance, $20 at the door.

“How does it make you feel / To know that you voted for this?” The accusation of “Note to Self,” which opens Propagandhi’s sixth album, isn’t directed at a specific person or nation. The leftist punk-metal band hails from Canada, which isn’t high on the list of “Failed States” invoked by the disc’s title. Singer-guitarist Chris Hannah implicates all of his listeners for tacitly accepting, well, everything that’s wrong.

Hannah and his colleagues don’t simply list those things. As song titles such as “Hadron Collision” indicate, Propagandhi’s lyrics address complicated issues and use elaborate metaphors. The tunes include occasional exclamations, but the quartet is more inclined to muse, often about miscommunication. As “Dark Matters” puts it: “We’re all in the same place / But it seems we’re living in parallel worlds.” The track “Things I Like” even includes a few lines in Ojibwe, a Canadian native language largely supplanted by English.

Propagandhi does have a strategy for uniting parallel lives: headbanging. Since its 1993 debut, the band has expanded and refined its skills, moving from bash-and-shout punk to precise, jazzy metal. Hannah’s and David Guillas’s guitars race like particles in the Large Hadron Collider, speeding toward the moment — however brief — when everyone is united.

— Mark Jenkins

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