In the punk sphere, maturity often connotes an uptick in ambition coupled with a pop-friendly polish, à la Green Day’s transition from lovelorn slacker brats to Broadway-friendly arena gods. But the aesthetic arc of Propagandhi—a Manitoba band formed in 1986, a year before Billie Joe Armstrong teamed up with Mike Dirnt to form Green Day precursor Sweet Children—proves that there’s more than one way for punks to grow up. In the years since their peeved yet goofy 1993 debut LP, How to Clean Everything, frontman Chris Hannah, drummer Jord Samolesky & Co. have gradually dialed up the heaviness and technicality, honing a sonic punch to match their always-fierce leftist convictions. Taking in 2009’s stunning Supporting Caste, it was hard to peg Propagandhi as anything but an elite prog-thrash unit.
The band continues to push on its latest, Failed States (Epitaph), which it supports this week with a pair of local gigs. The record cruises and clanks like a diabolical thrill ride, alternating dynamic epics (album opener “Note to Self”) with full-throttle assaults (the title track and “Status Update,” each clocking in under two minutes). As bassist-vocalist Todd “The Rod” Kowalski screams himself hoarse in protest of the forcible head-shaving of Indonesian and Iraqi punks on “Rattan Cane,” it’s clear that Propagandhi’s white-hot rage won’t be cooling anytime soon. Aging? Sure, but you can forget about that mellow part.—Hank Shteamer
Follow Hank Shteamer on Twitter: @DarkForcesSwing