Propagandhi: Still Cleaning Everything

It’s hard to believe but Propagandhi debut album, How to Clean Everything, is now 20 years old. If this doesn’t make you feel like an old, jaded punk rocker, then you probably grew up listening to crap music or are too young and are probably listening to crap music now.

Never fear, in conjunction with the album’s 20th anniversary, Fat Wreck have re-mastered and released the album in all its snotty, punk rock glory, and have even tacked on a few bonus tracks to go along with it.

For me, How to Clean Everything was one of the gateway albums to political and social consciousness in punk rock. Propagandhi have always been very loud in their stance against racism, homophobia, sexism, capitalism and religion- and the album was a wake up call during my formative years. The album was raw and had some sillier tracks (like the great “Ska Sucks”), but songs like “Anti-Manifesto” (listen to the remastered version above) and “Showdown” were my introduction to politically charged songs that were urgent, but melodic and accessible.

I’ve always liked their follow-up, Less Talk, More Rock, more than I did this record, but as debut albums go, it’s hard to look past this as anything but stellar. 20 years later, and Propagandhi are still cleaning everything. I may not agree with all their views as I did all those years ago, but listening to the remastered songs here lights a dormant fire, no matter how fleeting its flame.

Propagandhi’s How to Clean Everything (20th Anniversary Edition) is available via Fat Wreck. Buy this record. 

Album Reviews

Review: The Weakerthans – Reconstruction Site

Contrary to popular belief, we are actually in abundance of talented song craftsmen. From the low ranged pastures of those distinctly less cerebral landscapes to our deepest and most complicated entangling, men and women are at this very moment creating instrumental structures that will likely move us, shake us, appease us and upset us. We have those who at their most inspired, utilize the most unique of object collections – bending their resonance into compositions that are not only individually fascinating; but are capable of evoking the deepest of thoughts in comprehending these atypical results. They are the troubadours of musical creativity; musicians who stray away from textbook arrangements and recognized sounds and in the end, fracture previous conceptions of genres and styles. Then there are those who keep within our commercial boundaries, crafting accessible pop numbers that become the accompaniment of moving pictures and that whistling walk down the street. While certainly not overly creative, they too possess the faculty to influence and sway.

The Weakerthans fall into the latter category in most points. Their collective sound tends to range between alternative-country-pop and prairie rock, never being too challenging but grasping at our most organic of inclinations. It is however, not the attribute in which they excel in; no, that one glaring asset lies in their lyrical virtuoso John K Samson; their champion of wandering spontaneous prose. It would be of no surprise if in some way, the nomadic undercurrent that wavers through Reconstruction Site was derived on some cross country voyage with the Neal Cassadys of the world, toting Ginsberg and Thomas Wolfe. If the vast endless roads and grasslands could be translated into today’s musical offerings, The Weakerthans would be the direct result. It has always been that way, at least for Samson. During his Propaghandhi days, while Chris Hannah spoke of McCarthyism, dead fascists and homosexuality, Samson penned tunes about small town alienation and regrets; and his keen observational eye has not lost a step since staving off the staunch political jibe. And his musical sense, while a small step behind, is remarkably adaptive to his drifting wisdom.

It is fitting in a way that while his words invent so intricately; “I’m afloat / A float in a summer parade / up the street in a town that you were born in / With a girl at the top wearing tulle / and a Miss Somewhere sash / waving like a queen”, the accompanying sound naturally eases itself into the lyrical meditation. In the track “Reconstruction Site”, the gentle guitar pulling and the cozy bass line plots the travelogue while those reflective lines do most of the driving. It is this sort of hand-in-hand partnership that best connects the listener to the music in its entirety; one that prevents the sort of stagnation that comes with sounds of flurrying experimental direction. Nonetheless, it is noteworthy to point out that there has been some level of creative flat lining since their last disc, Left and leaving(2000). Their previous effort snaked so charmingly across the folk/rock/country vista, stopping at certain intervals to bask in the glow of loungesque garage sale wonderment (“Everything Must Go!”), modest spoken word beating (“Without Mythologies”) and a sense of exploration (musically) that stretched from the tundra to the swampy marsh lands.

Reconstruction Site is far less adventurous in regards to its instrumental assembly; credit the higher production value if you will, but nevertheless, the seemingly level plain in which they skate on presents the text in a greater connecting tone – a chime those searching for musical refinement will undoubtedly hear. From the unfussy rock of “The Reasons” to the uber bouncy “Our Retired Explorer (Dines with Michel Foucalt in Paris, 1961)”, anyone seeking connectivity within the music will grasp at its accessible foundation and truly itinerant sense.

In the instances where they do become musically restive, they do so with much less vigor than previous outings. “One Great City!” is an endearing folky stab at the city of Winnipeg, with delicate strings-a-twinkling, it is about as musically artful as this album gets. However, it does bear the comic verse “The crowded riders’ restlessness enunciates that the Guess Who suck / the Jets were lousy anyway / The same route every day / And in the turning lane, someone’s stalled again”.

Reconstruction Site isn’t the mark of artful splendor, but it does continue the Weakerthans’ quest to forever travel the meandering conduits of personal freedom and observational exploration. If anyone were ever to forward the cause for written spontaneity and a freshness for inspirational description, John K Samson would be our lonesome scribe. And for those seeking a companion for their favorite “road” book, the music of The Weakerthans is that cross-country trip you yearn to take over and over again – a bona fide sound for that timeless vision. (Epitaph)