Random Records with Steve O
Propagandhi - Today's Empires, Tomorrow's AshesSteve O - April 28, 2014
So I’ve been all over the place here lately, what with the 5-records-guess-the-connection thing and playing the classical music card (you gotta admit though, Seasons was pretty appropriate). Well, now let’s get back to the regular programming. With a band of vegans, singing about radical politics, and mixing punk and metal. Oh, and they’re huge hockey fans. Not sure if there’s a band I’d want to hang out with any more than the almighty Propagandhi.
Today’s Empires, Tomorrow’s Ashes, released in 2001, was Propagandhi’s transition album. The preceding ones were heavily borrowing the NOFX punk rock formula. From this point on there were more and more metal influences, particularly thrash elements (just check out some of the guitar work on Supporting Caste for proof). Today’s Empires, Tomorrow’s Ashes documents that shift. Songs such as “Fuck the Border” and “New Homes for Idle Hands” highlight the hardcore elements, songs like “Today’s Empire, Tomorrow’s Ashes” and “Natural Disasters” contain a modern punk vibe, while the fantastic album closer, “Purina Hall of Fame,” displays the technical guitar work that would appear on later records.
And then there’s the lyrics. In my opinion, there are few, if any, better than Chris Hannah. Seriously, how many bands can discuss the murders of Fred Hampton and Anna Mae Aquash and Suharto’s policies towards East Timor and simultaneously reference the Dead Kennedys and name drop King Diamond and still have a great sense of humor? Not to even get into the hockey references, which, sadly, do not make an appearance here (Check out “Resisting Tyrannical Government” from Less Talk, More Rock for a perfect example). (Yes, Propagandhi are Canadian, they’re from Winnipeg. That explains it.) But they attack religion (“Ego Fum Papa (I am the Pope)”), immigration policies (“Fuck the Border”), the prison system (“New Homes for Idle Hands”) and the record industry worming its way into punk music (“Back to the Motor League”), with lyrical genius and blazing music. This was their first record with bassist Todd Kowalski, who lends his voice to the heavier songs, giving a nice diversity throughout the 33-minute record.
When you listen to the record you have to read along with the lyrics. It’s like the school of things they never teach you in school. You’ll learn about things you previously didn’t even know existed. (How many of you could even find East Timor on a map?) I can’t stress enough how much this is essential listening. If you haven’t gotten into Propagandhi before, it’s about time to do so.