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Pro­pa­gandhi

Vic­tory Lap

Over the course of their 30-year ca­reer, Win­nipeg’s Pro­pa­gandhi have mor­phed and ma­tured with re­mark­able grace. While their pol­i­tics and core val­ues have held steady, their mu­sic has slowly devel­oped from spry, catchy pop punk into the ag­gres­sive blend of melodic hard­core and thrash fea­tured on sev­enth LP Vic­tory Lap. This evo­lu­tion may have come in­tu­itively, but the band’s lyri­cal themes are point­edly adapted to the cur­rent cli­mate. “You say not all cops, you say not all men,” Chris Hannah scowls on the ti­tle track be­fore not­ing that “this whole damn beau­ti­ful life [is] wasted on you… and me.” The fol­low­ing, sin­is­ter-sound­ing “Com­ply/Re­sist” ad­dresses the hyp­o­crit­i­cal and con­demnable treat­ment of Indigenous peo­ples in Canada, and the im­pos­si­ble dou­ble-binds they are con­stantly caught in.

In ad­di­tion to these ever-per­ti­nent so­cial threats, the band deal with the tra­vails of get­ting older, and bal­ance out the macro themes on the record with the per­sonal. New mem­ber, gui­tarist Su­lynn Hago, proves to be a nat­u­ral fit with the band, work­ing melodic coun­ter­points and flour­ishes into their wind­ing song struc­tures. She brings a jolt of fresh en­ergy to a band that have be­come sage vet­er­ans of in­creas­ingly an­gry and des­per­ate eman­ci­pa­tory pol­i­tics. In a world where acts like Pro­pa­gandhi are only be­com­ing more nec­es­sary, it’s re­as­sur­ing to know that they have built an im­pas­sioned re­serve, ready to pick up the cause no mat­ter how long the Vic­tory Lap

au­then­tic. There’s never a sense that she’s mas­querad­ing. De­spite Nokia’s artistry, though, Deluxe has a few marked flaws. Her ca­dence and punch lines are am­a­teur­ish at times, there’s some­thing flat about the pro­duc­tion and over­all mix, and the canned drums and bass just don’t fill the ear like they should. Over­all though, Deluxe is a solid ef­fort that proves this Har­lemite has the range. (Rough Trade) may last. (Epi­taph, epi­taph.com)

How has the in­tro­duc­tion of gui­tarist Su­lynn Hago changed the dy­namic?

Hannah: Su­lynn re­ally is one of us, which I kind of knew from the first time I ever cor­re­sponded with her when we were look­ing for a gui­tar player, and it’s worked out re­ally great. It was the first time we ever reached out to the gen­eral public to look for a band mem­ber, and cer­tainly the first time we’ve ever had a long dis­tance re­la­tion­ship with a band mem­ber, be­cause she lives in Tampa. Orig­i­nally she was only sup­posed to play on two songs, but she man­aged to get onto al­most ev­ery one. She’d just say, “put on this song and hit record” and she’d do some­thing to get on there. The song­writ­ing es­sen­tially was be­ing done by a three-piece or some­times even just two of us, though.

How have re­ac­tions to your po­lit­i­cal mes­sages changed over the past three decades?

The re­ac­tions are far less neg­a­tive than they were in the ’90s. When Less Talk More Rock came out, a lot of peo­ple aban­doned the band and couldn’t bring them­selves to buy a record that said “gay pos­i­tive” on the cover. Now, no one bats an eye at that shit. In those very lim­ited re­spects, the world has caught up and prob­a­bly sur­passed the band. We don’t have the death threats that we used to get, so I like that!

With those lanes oc­cu­pied, con­sis­tency is ul­ti­mately what sets Pro­tomar­tyr apart from the pack. Their de­vel­op­ment has been steady, as each new al­bum broad­ened the scope and lyri­cal am­bi­tion of its pre­de­ces­sor. Rel­a­tives in De­scent is a cul­mi­na­tion of the band’s po­ten­tial; they sound a ca­reer re­moved from the scrappy garage punks who re­leased No Pas­sion All Tech­nique just four years ago, even as they re­main snidely dis­sat­is­fied. And why shouldn’t they be? Pro­tomar­tyr have al­ways hit back at the ghast­li­ness of late cap­i­tal­ism, and amid fur­ther tur­moil, singer Joe Casey’s blows have only got­ten more di­rect. “Up the Tower” gives al­le­gor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance to its “mar­ble em­peror’s” gaudi­ness and fixation with gold, but Casey doesn’t set­tle for easy tar­gets. Wolfish, bray­ing boors pop­u­late opener “A Pri­vate Un­der­stand­ing,” while “Don’t Go to Anacita” con­trasts “the straight white streets” of a gated town with the mi­grant work­ers and anti-va­grant sys­tems that main­tain it. These con­dem­na­tions feel es­pe­cially fe­ro­cious with the full weight of the band be­hind them. “Male Plague” blis­ters with con­tempt for its medi­ocre sub­jects, while the omi­nous bass and low, rolling beats make the malaise of “Wind­sor Hum” feel in­escapable. At its best, Rel­a­tives in De­scent makes gui­tar mu­sic feel rad­i­cal again, cap­tur­ing both timely and time­less anx­i­eties. (Domino, domi­norecordco.com) Rostam

Half-Light

Since leav­ing Vam­pire Week­end last year, pro­ducer-song­writer ex­traor­di­naire Rostam Bat­man­glij has been dip­ping his finger in a num­ber of mu­si­cal

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