How To Clean Everything, including forests. A St. Pete Tribune story I read on the way to this gig writes of a deal struck between Oregon environmentalists and loggers, to reduce the risk of wildfires through select cutting. Propagandhi are people who might like the sound of that, and so do I: the last time I went to see them play (in Sheffield, England), an onstage blaze caused the abandonment of thrashings just halfway through. Flames are a menace. Hopefully by now these non-rock stars have learned that you have to keep your equipment fires controlled.
Mans environmental destruction is intricately bound with the oppression of women. War On Women (WOW), from Baltimore, came up with their name before it became a catchphrase on the latest GOP idiocy, that newest chapter in the infinite history of patriarchy. In this way the assault is ironically like WOWs music; a fresh take but well rooted in it’s past. You get old hardcore as if women and their perspectives had been represented or respected (how does no-one know the name of the Descendents’ original singer?) with hints of the alt rock addition made by riot girl, all while feeling new and relevant. The singing and dancing of singer Shawna Potter is often unapologetically feminine, but the wildness in her eyes as she does so has some Keith Morris to it. (Jello Biafra also appears to see a parallel between Morris’s pure throwback project OFF! and War On Women.) That wildness is certainly preferable to the Goat-like, white-people assery of their tribal introduction tones. Everything that came after though made WOW likeable: utterly musically spot on, from the drumming to the strumming. Potter tells the audience they can get free condoms or tampons with their merch, but if you missed out, pre-order their self-titled album due out in February — I’m sure they’ll press one or two into the envelope for you.
On second was PRML SCRM. I mean RVIVR. Brief exposure to their line ups and politics indicates that these three bands go well together for a tour (Sue from WOW performed bass duties tonight). But it goes further than that. Like War on Women, RVIVR take a well-loved scene that is past its heyday and improve it for 2015, making it more closely resemble its punk idealism. This is euphoric skate rock, complete with rad social politics on gender, sexuality and capitalism, smaller numbers of straight white males and bags of woah-ohs. Musically they’re not so much early Propagandhi — skate with hints that they would later become heavier — but similar to Strike Anywhere, Tsunami Bomb or Bouncing Souls (any song named “Manthem” would probably have a different slant, though). Co-singer-guitarist Mattie Jo Canino starts singing “Party Queen,” then excitedly crashes his own vocal to speak before re-commencing. This is a quieter track, reminiscent of The Jesus And Mary Chain if they were fronted by Laura Jane Grace (think of the dynamic on “Sink, Florida, Sink”). Do you reckon anyone has ever referenced two Bobby Gillespie acts in one punk review before? Upbeat hooks, positivity, brilliant co-ed harmonies, and on this night an absolute corker to close with — that is the kind of revival I can get behind.
I’ve always thought “Dear Coaches Corner” was a top song with a solid point, but a little bit ridiculous. You cannot compare your ideological opponents to Nazi propaganda officials unless you’re a member of a mainstream political party. But when I hear those commentators chatting idly about the good ol’ troops and the headbutting riff that follows, it’s amazing in it’s own right and because it reifies that Propagandhi are here and they have begun. It’s the last date of the tour but aside from the fact that they let their music do most of the talking you’d think it was the last date ever; Propagandhi bounce between their various releases picking some of the best off each. The trend of bands playing classic albums in their entirety is given a nod with chronological mini-sets for Less Talk, More Rock (“Apparently I’m a P.C. Fascist,” “Nation States Were a Bad Idea,” the title track) and How To Clean Everything (“Shove the Fucking Flag,” “Haille Sellasse”). Yes, I had to shorten every single title there. They may recently have embraced occasional wordy brevity on both recordings and stage, but for a band that have constantly evolved like few others their songs all sit together surprisingly nicely. This even includes the couple of new songs the audience is treated to. There’s constant guest singing from Propagandhi’s tourmates, and an encore that includes the inevitable “Back to The Motor League” and a slightly surprising “Anti-Manifesto,” the first track on their debut album. This high number of glance backs, attempts to make the tour less of a sausage fest and continued progressive politics all meld to show a band surely conscious of the fact that they’ve now been pissing about and making excellent music for almost thirty years, but determined to stay worthwhile. If anyone can make punk grow up in an admirable way, it’s Propagandhi.
You can’t just go right home after a gig like that! What are you out of your fuckin’ mind? Am I not a doctor? You need to come down off the high first, or risk getting whiplash. We head across the street to The Local 662 for free entry into the so-called after party. At the Local are four appropriately local bands to cleanse your palette — the musical one that is — while you drink beer. Whether you get yourself weened back to Earth by street punk (Not for Nothing), pop-punk (Awkward Age), understated indiemo (Betterment) or hardcore/skacore/jah-core (Station Cases) coverage is available. All sound great even as the crowd slims and are definitely worth checking out next time they aren’t just following in someones shadow. Propagandhi can’t be here every week, but these kinds of acts are, so support them. Those noisy foreigners probably wouldn’t want you thinking they were doing anything you couldn’t do with a bunch of friends anyway.