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Free Thing # 5

"I'm losing faith that we here in the cradle of affluence can cease our sickening drive for individual strength through State-powers' swinging fists."
Propagandhi:


Today's Empires, Tomorrow's Ashes
Written by: Alex Sandell 
with comments from Propagandhi bassist,
Todd Kowalski

To say I was disappointed when I first heard this CD (which is available at a store near you TODAY!) would be an understatement.  I was pissed off, let down, enraged and embittered.  I was probably also overreacting, but I had been waiting for nearly half a decade for this to be released, and to hear what I thought, at the time, was Propagandhi's attempt at selling out to impress the kids, left me with a miserable feeling in my gut that I'd place somewhere between hyperactive bowel syndrome and being dumped by your favorite girl.  I fired off a missive to the band ranting and raving like a lunatic over what a bunch of sellouts they were, and how, after making me, along with their other fans, wait a long four years for this record, they owed us something a little bit better than what we had been given.  Propagandhi didn't take kindly to my ill-tempered hissy-fit, and wrote back slightly calmer missives of their own.

Not only did Chris, the lead singer and lead guitarist of the band, convince me that this new album wasn't, as I put it, "pulling a Rancid" by becoming more hardcore to please the young punks in the pit, he actually had me wondering if the first two Propagandhi releases weren't actually the group's attempt at selling out.  "This record," Chris said, "is the first thing I've ever done in my life that I'm actually proud of."  Todd, the band's new bassist that took John's place a couple years back, reinforced this statement by telling me that Chris does indeed know his shit stinks (I had claimed otherwise), and "hates everything he does, and now he feels very happy with what he's done finally."  Wow.  Did I suddenly feel like a horse's ass.  

After the comments from Todd and Chris, I decided to give the CD another listen, but still couldn't get into it.  This left me in a bit of a bind, knowing I'd have to give a negative review to a CD that one of my favorite bands worked really hard on, and seemed to be genuinely proud of.  I had spent all of two minutes thinking of ways I could solve this problem before deciding that, since my review was going to be negative, Todd and Chris could comment on what I said about their songs, essentially reviewing my review.  I've never seen that done before, and I thought it was a pretty nifty, novel idea.  Artists of all shapes and sizes are always bitching about bad reviews, so why not let them actually point out why they think the review is bad?  

Todd immediately took to the idea, and offered to lend his opinions to this very page.  Since that time, I've actually started to like the CD a hell of a lot better, and my review isn't nearly as scathing as it was going to be (it's actually fairly positive), but Todd kept his word and commented on each individual critique that I gave to the songs on the new Propagandhi CD.  I think his comments add a certain insight to the review that you wouldn't have gotten if it had just been my opinions.  Reviews are usually pretty exclusionary, and I figured a little change would be good.  Anyway, enough of this overly-long, self-explanatory introduction, and onto the review!

Mate Ka Moris Ukun Rasik An:

Alex says:  An excellent start to Propagandhi's first full-length release in over 4 years.  The melodic beginning leads into a thrashing guitar and rapid pace, introducing us to faster, harder Propagandhi.  It won't hit you at first as a "sing-a-long" type song, but will quickly grow on you.

Todd (bassist from Propagandhi) replies:  I may agree with my little buddy here.  I think there's some hot licks, and really good lyrics by Chris.  Especially if you know the woman in the song, which you probably do not.  Well ya do now, muthas.

Alex gives it a 9 (on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best.  And, if you didn't know that 10 is the best, you should probably go shoot yourself.)

Fuck the Border:

Alex says:  Propagandhi's new bassist is introduced with a brief bass solo, and then his pissed-at-the-world singing voice.  Totally hardcore.  Todd is definitely a welcome addition to Propagandhi, and completely contrasts with the melodic styling of ex-bass player, John, and his soft singing voice, and more flowery take on politics.  I think a lot of people will miss the "John songs," but a lot more will welcome Todd's.  If you were a fan of John's (like myself), you can always pick up one of the excellent Weakerthans' releases, and listen until your heart melts into an empathetic pile of mush. 

Todd replies:  Yes, a different person with different ideas changes a band.  I can only be me.  I hope people dig my perspective on music.  This song is actually pretty old.  I like it.  I'm faster but still sensitive!

Alex gives it a 8

Today's Empires, Tomorrow's Ashes:

Alex says:  On first listen, this sounds just like another typical hardcore song, but after a few spins you'll notice that there's a lot of melodic undertones, and even overtones, to the hardcore.  One of my favorite songs on the CD.

Todd replies:  I love this song.  Chris makes great songs, in my opinion.  Great licks again makes me wish I had his talent actually.  

Alex gives it a 9

Back to the Motor League:

Alex says:  This song doesn't belong on this record.  It's a huge departure from the other tracks, both lyrically and musically.  Chris's voice doesn't even sound the same as it does on the rest of the CD, or the CD's that came before, to be honest.  My brother thought it sounded like they were trying to imitate the Offspring, in an attempt to grab a few of the Offspring's loyal, yet tasteless, fans.  When I relayed this to Todd, he just about shit brown anarchy symbols.  If this was an individual song on a 7", I'd probably love it.  As a part of this record, I think it fails.  Still, it's got a nice little sideline slam directed at all of the Korn's, Eminem's and Limp Bizkitz's across the world, giving it a few bonus points.

Todd replies:  If we ever did or ever would copy the Offspring I'd have to wear a bag over my head.  I think they are one of the worst bands ever.  I think all their songs stink.  Motor League is fashioned after old bands like Raven, Accept and shit.  The old rockers.  We live for that stuff.  At a glance the most petty song on the record.  But if you look close it's got a lot of meaning.  It gets frustrations off our chest, and tells the world we'll keep on down our path no matter what the others do. Though, someone thought it was going to be a radio single (I believe the "someone" he's referring to is me - Alex) it's actually railing against that shit.  The tune's railing against those type of venture capitalist bullshit bands.

Alex gives it a 6

Natural Disasters:

Alex says:  One of the only times that Propagandhi slows down enough to let you clearly hear the lyrics.  It's lucky that they do, because the words are fucking great.  Too bad the song is boring as hell.

Todd replies:  T
hat's a funny review.  I like the lyrics too.  I like the music too though, what can I say?  We would've tossed it otherwise.  I'm not objective.  Maybe boring?  Me don't know.

Alex gives it a 4 (for the lyrics)

With Friends Like These, Who the Fuck Needs COINTELPRO?:

Alex says:  This was one of the first song titles Propagandhi listed when announcing songs from their then upcoming album, like a year or two ago (this album probably had more "official" release dates than any that came before). Ever since, I've looked forward to it, based on the title alone.  It was well worth the wait.  The song is catchy as hell, has great lyrics, and leads into a wicked funny homage to Judas Priest that only us old punk fans that survived eighties heavy metal (fuck the Australian Outback, the next Survivor should put 16 people in a small-town stuck in a permanent "eighties" night) will actually get.

Todd replies:  I agree with me man here.

Alex gives it a 9

Albright Monument, Baghdad:

Alex says:  It's really weird to think I actually hated this song when I first listened to it.  It's a damn fine song, with a damn fine chorus.  You'll never think of "affluence" as a good thing again (if you were ever dumb/greedy enough to think of it in that way, in the first place). 

Todd replies:  Yes, I can see how this may take a couple spins it's a little different.  I love the chorus.  If we could do it again I would like another one between the breaks in the earlier part of the song.

Alex gives it a 8

Ordinary People Do Fucked-Up Things When Fucked-Up Things Become Ordinary:

Alex says:  I already nominate this for "best song title of the year 2001."  A lot of nice switches in pace, musically, and really cool vocal interaction between Todd and Chris.  This one will have your ass in the pit and your face bloodied, leaving you feeling grateful for it.

Todd replies:  I like this I think it's the best music and lyrics I've ever made. Me and Chris mixed everything up.  Both our songs contain music written by each other and sometimes sang by the guy who did not write the song.  To make full band cohesion, instead of his song, my song, his song, my song type feel.

Alex gives it a 9

Ladies' Nite In Loserville:

Alex says:  This is tied for my favorite song on the CD.  I've had women saying these exact same things to me.  The lyrics had me giggling like jailbait after a bottle of Boone's Farm, even if that wasn't the intention.  You'll be yelling along with this one the first time you hear it.  

Todd replies:  Ladies' Night is a good ern to me.  The lyrics I hope are not misunderstood by folks.  That's the trouble with "art" ha.  I like Chris' little laugh at the end.  Cracks me up.

Alex gives it a 10

Ego Fum Papa (I Am the Pope):

Alex says:  I don't know if Propagandhi came up with the church sounds at the beginning, but they are hysterical.  The first time I heard them I had to look around to make sure I wasn't 15 years old, and back in Catholic church, with my mom, who made attendance mandatory.  Why is it that everyone in church is continually coughing?  Is that part of the expelling demons thing?  Anyway, Propagandhi got the sounds down to a science.  The song itself is extremely short, and fairly satisfying, even if you have heard it a million times before.  I don't love it, but I don't hate it.  Average.  The end reminds me of a straight-edge type chant.

Todd replies:  I like the lyrics a lot.  The most average song on the record, I agree.  The church stuff is done by us.  I think I like it on the record cause of the lyrics.  It's a good song, just not quite up with some others.  Perhaps.  Jord (our drummer) loves it so that's good enough for me.

Alex gives it a 5

New Homes For Idle Hands:

Alex says:  I despised this song the first time I heard it.  Somehow, even it has grown on me.  I'm a sucker for "duets."  All the way back to the early KISS shit when Gene and Paul would "duet" together (pun intended), I'd begin drooling in prepubescent stereophonic ecstasy.  If only Propagandhi wore ridiculous Halloween makeup and gigantic platform boots.  

Todd replies: Despised it?  Yowch.  Glad it grew on ya.  I think it's a.o.k. another older one.

Alex gives it a 6

Bullshit Politicians:
Alex says:  This song is tied with "Ladies' Night In Loserville" as my favorite on the CD due to one thing, and one thing only: the amazing fucking chorus.  GOOD GAWD, I hate to go off over and over again about this "duet" thing, but never have two voices interchanging been used to greater affect.

Todd replies:  I can live with that, Alexio.

Alex gives it a 10

March of the Crabs: 

Alex says:  This song stinks about as much as crab lice.  It's extremely boring, and there doesn't seem to be anything to it, outside of speeding up and slowing down, never taking the time to add anything like a chorus, which may actually stick with you (sort of like crabs).  Sucks when lice is actually catchier than a song.

Todd replies:  It's straight ahead.  The lyrics contain intense meaning for me.  My old buddy Regal loves it so's if the world is bored by it at least Regal's banging his mutated head.

Alex gives it a 3 (sorry Regal)

Purina Hall of Fame:

Alex says:  The intro. to this song is chilling.  So chilling, in fact, that it drove both of my carnivorous brothers to vegetarianism.  Texas Chainsaw Massacre has nothing up on the shit that precedes this tune.  The song itself is a bit too long.  It's fairly draggy, and doesn't end the album on a very powerful note, musically.  The whispering voice sarcastically reinforcing the excuses we make for eating meat ("there's nothing you can do") is a nice touch, and does add to the haunting feel of the song, in a classic Alice Cooper type way.  

Todd replies:  I like this last puppy.  It's a little longer and moves around a bit, we knew it was an ender we wanted drama and fury.  I like it a lot.  It's very depressing really.  But, the solo at the end is supposed to be very hopeful.  The sounds are from a movie, and our friend Bruce made the heartbeat sound, then we just panned them to each speaker.

Alex gives it a 5 

OVERALL RATING - Propagandhi's "Today's Empires, Tomorrow's Ashes" gets 7.2 Juicy squirts out of a possible 10.9 ejaculations.   This is after listening to it a good 10 or 15 times.  Unless you're a HUGE fan of hardcore, the record is like skin cancer:  it really needs to grow on you before it makes an impact.  I don't like it quite as much as their first full-length, "How to Clean Everything," and don't think it even comes CLOSE to their second, Less Talk, More Rock, but that's to be expected, being that I think Less Talk is one of the ten best punk records ever created.

MAKE UP YOUR OWN MIND - Order the CD today!

I'd like to thank both Todd and Chris for addressing my seething anger in a civil manner, and would like to give extra thanks to Todd for taking the time to add his comments to this review, and being an all-around cool guy.

HEY!!!  Do you have something to promote?  I'll review ANYTHING (if it's not an audio cassette).  Fanzines, magazines, CDs, DVDs, videos, toys, comic books, novels, nude photographs; whatever you send me, I'll review it!  I can't promise a GOOD review, since some of the things you send me will indefinitely suck shit, but I CAN promise a review, and an address where a person can find the thing I'm reviewing.  Even if I hate the damn thing, you're still getting free promotion (if it's good enough for Marylin Manson, damn it, it's good enough for you!)!  It doesn't even have to be a product that you're involved with!  If you've got something you'd like on The Juicy Cerebellum, send it to:

Alex Sandell
3613 Columbus Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55407

Email me, bitch!

My review of Marylin Manson's "Holy Wood" CD


My review of NOFX's "Pump up the Valuum" CD


My review of Alice Cooper's "Brutal Planet" CD


My review of Migraine's "Live at CBGB's" CD

Back to The Juicy Cerebellum!

Everything outside of the Propagandhi album cover, and quoted lyrics, is copyright 2001 Alex Sandell [All Rights Reserved].  Copy this, without my permission, and I'll SEW on the earphones and turn up the KORN!