Propagandhi’s newest offering “Failed States” picks up in nearly the same place they left off with 2009’s “Supporting Caste”, but with a more measured and mature take on their thrashpunkmetal sound. I’m not sure “mature” has ever before been used to describe the band or their music, but this reviewer is at a loss for a better adjective, so it will have to do.
The Winnipeg quartet opens the records with a six-minute long opus entitled “Note to Self”, setting the tone for the rest of the album by introducing each of the major themes that appear in later tracks. Normally, a six-minute long song would have me hitting the skip button after about three minutes, but “Note” avoids the repetition and easy answers that would befall a lesser band.
The musicianship on “Failed States” is what one has come to expect from the most technically skilled players in the genre. Drummer Jord Samolesky puts on a clinic for anyone who pretends to be a punk drummer. Only Brooks Wackerman is close to being this fast, this clean, and this tasteful. Guitarists Chris Hannah and David Guillas have shown another million would-be punk/metal guitarists that they should either practice eight hours a day or just hang it up. Arpeggio sweeps flow to seamless palm muting and back to open chord leads. Listen in particular to the solo on “Cognitive Suicide”. It’s short, but holy jebus. This is why I’m not in a technical band. Prop already does it better than I ever could.
The track “Things I Like” brings back a sound not heard from the band since “Less Talk, More Rock”. This is a standout to me, as it reminds me of the Propagandhi that grabbed my ears in 1994. I would love an entire EP of songs that sound like this, but I’ll undoubtedly have to be satisfied with this one track. They’ve long since left the house and moved on to greater things, but I’m glad they paid even this short visit to the old homestead.
In all honesty, Propagandhi could have released a huge pile of shit, and their fans still would have eaten every bite. It is a testament to their musical integrity that they didn’t just crap out another record because it was time to pay the mortgage. It’s been three years since “Supporting Caste”, but they used that time to craft a record that is easily among their best to date.
If you have been on the fence about Propagandhi in the past, you would do well to pick this one up. They’ve toned down most of the manic thrash that characterized “Potemkin” and “Caste” and have put out a masterfully balanced record well worth adding to the collection. Don’t let the usual fawning fanbois and reviewers keep your contrarian ass from a truly excellent release.
Five Stars. Seriously. The only record (so far) I’ve given five stars to, and it earns all of them.
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