Album Review: Propagandhi - Victory Lap

Written by Maddy Howell

With a career spanning over 30 years, Winnipeg political-punk pioneers Propagandhi have become well accustomed to changing and maturing their sound. Since the accessible, infectious pop-punk hooks of their early work, the quartet have been continually pushing the boundaries in their output, proving more and more unpredictable upon each release. 2017 marks the release of the band’s seventh studio album, 'Victory Lap', and yet another opportunity for them to showcase just how far their sound can go.

With political unrest spread across the globe and fascism, sexism, racism and homophobia all pushed to the forefront of issues that are demanding conversation, it was only a matter of time before a Propagandhi record surfaced. Opening on title track, Victory Lap, the band’s latest musical re-invention becomes immediately clear, taking their sound in the most trash metal direction we’ve seen from them thus far.

Throughout 'Victory Lap', Propagandhi begin to one-by-one take a stand against the hateful ideologies Donald Trump is looking to push in his agenda. The topic of sexism is tackled on Tartuffle, with frontman Chris Hannah feverishly announcing: “We came here to rock // all single moms to the front // deadbeat dads to the rear,” over a rollicking guitar riff and thrashing percussion. The theme switches to animal cruelty on the jaunty Lower Order (A Good Laugh), before Comply/Resist addresses the maltreatment of Indigenous peoples of Canada, and the constant hypocrisy and discriminate affairs brought upon them.

Propagandhi have always been at their best when they effectively manage to blend topics of personal struggle with their political commentary. Nigredo is the quintessential example, with an overwhelming darkness looming over the grief-ridden track. Reflecting on the loss of bassist Todd Kowalski’s father, the themes leak out into a wider context of current affairs, acting as a disconsolate reflection as to where we find ourselves now.

Something that proves notable about 'Victory Lap' is its constant change in pace and style, never quite sticking on its path for more than a few minutes. Although this level of irregularity edges the album on being a little too disjointed and jumpy, it also ensures things never play out too long, with new ideas introduced as soon as the old begin to tire. The trash metal influence echoes loud and clear on In Flagrante Delicto, with Lower Order and Failed Imagineer switching to push the chugging guitars synonymous with Propagandhi’s sound, before Letters To A Young Anus offers a sound beautifully reminiscent of 1993’s 'How To Clean Everything'.

It’s in its variety and ability to cover all grounds that this album truly proves it’s worth. 'Victory Lap' is a band angry at the world around them, pining for change yet accepting the difficulty in getting there. There’s a sadness in their anger, and a hope that future generations are spared the pain of today – a sentiment that many can share.

This idea becomes evident on album closer, Adventures in Zoochosis, concluding proceedings on a poignantly reflective note. Opening with the sounds of children’s laughter, the track is soon splintered with notable phrases spoken by President Trump, tainting the innocent sonance with words of spite and animosity. The track blossoms into a heart-wrenching tale of breaking out of the cages we situate ourselves in, and refusing to let our children amount to the same fate as us, ending on a harrowing observation about the world we are living in.

Although times are tough and it can become harder and harder to see a light at the end, 'Victory Lap' is a much-needed reminder that we can face these storms together. Whilst continually able to craft intriguing and innovative ideas musically, it’s Propagandhi’s ability to push their message in an engagingly inclusive and passionately desperate manner that enables them to remain at the forefront of their scene.