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Supporting Caste

March 6th, 2009 · post by anon · 3 Comments

Almost exactly eight years ago I had asked my brother to get a Me First and the Gimme Gimmes album for my fifteenth birthday. I was fairly pissed off when I opened my gift to find ‘Today’s Empires Tomorrows Ashes’ staring at me. As my taste in music developed, ‘Today’s Empires…’ never left my collection, in fact back albums by Propagandhi appeared. Over the years I had listened to them a lot and they had a profound affect on my life. Now vegan, sober and anarchist, largely thanks to their influence. It chills me to the bone thinking about what kind of Hawaiian shirt wearing, beer bellied, bowling chump I would be if my brother had got me that Gimmes album all those years ago. So, another three years have past and we find ourselves anxious again, this time in anticipation of Propagandhi’s fifth full length album, ‘Supporting Caste’ coming out on March 10th.

The opening track, ‘Night Letters’, shreds. It does exactly what you want it to. Its catchy but not cheesy, its still heavy and it gets you pumped for the new album. Progressing from their heavier tracks on previous albums, the injection of Chris’ vocals backing up Todd’s shouts adds a satisfying harmony throughout the song and the occasional slow drum beat (beneath the unrelenting sound of guitars shredding) really mixes it up. It’s a passionate song, less academic, more emotional, it is about their own experiences with refugees, but it could also be used to describe the tricky situation refugees and there allies around the world have to face.

The next song ‘Supporting Caste’ sets the overriding tone of the albums lyrics, one of great frustration and impending doom. We are the insignificant supporting cast of this globally catastrophic performance that is humanity. It is a fast paced song with a break of clean guitar and whispery lyrics in a style that we have not seen from Propagandhi in the past. It is a refreshing progression and helps give the album a whole new sound and feeling.

‘Tertium Non Datur’ – literally “there is no third (possibility)”. In logic, it’s the law of the excluded middle and is too complicated to describe in such a small space. All you need to know is that this song is about the rational of logic in the thought process and indirectly the pathology of religion. Solid lyrics, as ever, but my least favorite musically. It repeats an irritating riff and develops into a fairly mediocre and forgettable tune then back again with said riff. However, it is followed by one of my personal favorites of the album, ‘Dear Coaches Corner’ about their passion for Ice Hockey, which “is in the end a kids game.” Apparently in Canada it is disgracefully used as a space to advertise the military when soldiers come down rappelling from the ceiling before the game starts!?! An intense intro turns into a mellow build up with catchy vocals that dominate the rest of the relatively simple structure of this classic Propagandhi song. For those who enjoyed the last couple of albums, you will love this one.

Monotonous lifestyles in ‘This is Your Life’ come under fire during this intense burst from Todd. Criticizing those who complain about, yet do nothing to change, their lifestyles in a minute long song that’s up there amongst previous hardcore greats such as ‘Super Bowl Patriot’ and ‘Fuck the Border’.

Like ‘Dear Coaches Corner’, another song that will be stuck in your head for days (and make those vegans out there smile) is ‘Human(e) Meat’, described in the song as “a rational so moronic it defies belief”. With their classic sound, it describes the humane killing and eating of a human being from the logic of many meat eaters in the first half of the song. There is a break before the sound changes to a more aggressive build up before the final melting guitar solo typical of ‘the Purina Hall of Fame’ and ‘Iteration’ that everyone will be waiting for when listening to this album. Trust me, it does not disappoint. The record sleeve has a hilarious article from Chris about being vegan along with plentiful resources to back it up. It is refreshing and a continuing source of inspiration to see their constant passion on the subject, advocating an awareness of our relationship with animals that should lead to both a change in diet as well as animal liberation.

‘Potemkin City Limits’, the song that appeared live on youtube a while back sounds like it would have suited the last album of the same title. The more abstract lyrics confuse me as to what the song is referring to. I always thought of the previous album title as a clever metaphor using the idea of Potemkin villages as our own limited society, but this song makes me think they are actually referring to the mutiny on the Battleship Potemkin during the 1905 uprising against the Russian Tsar, hopefully someone can set this straight for me. Musically I think it is OK, the sound of the vocals keeps me singing along to this track, but the medium pace and length of the song often makes me lose interest (as well as my apparent ignorance of the lyrics – my bad).

More catchy and melodic vocals follow in ‘The Funeral Procession’. Chris sings particularly depressing lyrics again about our obviously futile efforts in changing this screwed up world. The songs acoustic outro adds to the progressive new sound of this album as well as the emotional content of the song and flows perfectly into ‘Without Love’ the third consecutive track of this style. With extremely personal and heart breaking language the lyrics of this song, although ultimately sad, speak of love not hate as the most important motivation of all.

‘Incalcuable Effects’ changes the mood just when you need it to. A metallic riff dominates both intro and outro with Todd doing his fast hardcore thing in between. The songs he sings on this album are longer than previous albums and are very well written both musically and lyrically and leaves you wanting more. Like the previous track, ‘Incalcuable Effects’ is another heart breaking personal account of “sadness and despair”. In ‘Without Love’ it related to death, this time to drug abuse.

From sadness to nostalgia ‘The Bangers Embrace’ is a rather epic tale of going to a show. It sounds like a song made for a Fat Wreck Chords compilation, lyrically unchallenging and musically more pop punk influenced, it is clearly a tribute to one of their favorite bands. I feel like this will be the song that you either love or you hate. As for me I think it is a welcome addition to the variety of this album and leaves you feeling happy after the previous two tracks.

Like some kind of rock opera you can tell just from the beginning that ‘Last Will & Testament’ is the last track on this record. Just like they achieved on the last two tracks of the last two albums. In my opinion it sums up the overriding theme of the album well, that apathy is extremely frustrating and those with the privilege of education in this society have a responsibility to act, “So just lay back upon your death bed and gaze idiotically back up the chain of command from which we receive our directives. I guess it’s just common sense to preach what we ought to be, but ensure that it never is in the present tense.”

The album has a good mix of old and new sounds that will not upset or bore long standing Propagandhi fans. It feels more passionate and less academic, leaving the listener with a vast amount of resources in the sleeve to pursue at their leisure. Their bitterness and frustration is used hand in hand with their comedy and intellect to create an album suitable for a large and varied demographic of music lovers. One of the most underrated bands of all time, but maybe the greatest to come from, and stick to, a DIY, socially conscious/active base.

Supporting Caste has been released on their own record label, G7 Welcoming Committee records and Smallman records, another Winnipeg based label. In the UK the record is being released through Hassle. After the Fat Wreck Chords business put out the rock against Bush compilations and played their part in it is easy to see why Propagandhi could no longer work with them.

→ 3 CommentsThis entry belongs to the following categories: CD reviews · Reviews

3 responses so far

  • Clammy the Fiscally-Punctual Starfish posted:
    Mar 6, 2009 at 7:21 pm. Comment #1

    That’s some big-boy shit right there!

    The best band in the world, by some distance. Agree with every word of the review, and it’s testament to Propagandhi that they can just keep on churning out such consistently amazing, unrelenting, uncompromising stuff.

    Adding another guitarist has definitely been a good thing for them and has only added to the range of things they can produce.

    “Dear Coaches Corner” strikes a particular chord, as someone who loves sport, but hates the crossover with scumbag organisations and exploitative values that are now an inherent part of it all.

    Can’t wait for the tour next month!

  • Edd posted:
    Mar 7, 2009 at 12:14 pm. Comment #2

    That review’s almost as epic as the album!

  • jas posted:
    Mar 13, 2009 at 2:35 pm. Comment #3

    “It chills me to the bone thinking about what kind of Hawaiian shirt wearing, beer bellied, bowling chump I would be if my brother had got me that Gimmes album all those years ago.”

    cheeky. some of us did get that album and did turn into that chump.