Propagandhi: Potemkin City Limits

Potemkin City Limits brings some of the strongest enlightenment yet with fully developed songs that stretch the band’s talents in more multifaceted directions.

PROPAGANDHI: POTEMKIN CITY LIMITS (Fat Wreck Chords)

Considering what passes for punk rock these days, one can almost be forgiven for not remembering there are bands out there still living up to high standards and practices, lighting up a record as only true power chords and polemical lyrics can. Although it’s been almost four and a half years since their last release, it’s great to see bands like Propogandhi still dancing to their own refrain. The new album Potemkin City Limits is a reassuring piece of pure left-wing spittle—the dial doesn’t go much further in this direction than this trio of Winnipeg lads. “Liberal” may even be too slight a word for a group that has given us such incendiary and sentimental songs as “Homophobes Are Just Mad Cuz They Can’t Get Laid,” “The Only Good Fascist Is a Dead Fascist,” and “I Was a Pre-Teen McCarthyist.” You can just feel the hairs grow taut on the back of every right-winger’s neck.

Potemkin City Limits falls right in line with the band’s other work by continuing their mode of constantly changing, shifting music and lyrical wanderings with each new album, and now brings some of the strongest enlightenment yet with fully developed songs that stretch the band’s talents in more multifaceted directions. Musically and lyrically, it’s some of Propagandhi’s finest work. While the band took a small hit in 1997 when the insightful John K. Samson left to form the Weakerthans, Propagandhi has continued its wayward anarchist punk march with aplomb. Although the band likes to playfully tell the story of founding member Chris Hannah leaving in 2003 and swiftly being replaced by “more rounded musician” Glen Lambert, it’s readily apparent Lambert is merely an alter ego for Hannah, as the two share identical voices and guitar licks. Those mischievously scampish punks are a riot, but on this record, the witty asides and ironic peevishness are mostly gone, replaced by a more defiantly harsh brimstone, even uncoiling the requisite George Bush samples accompanied by laugh track.

On the opener “A Speculative Fiction,” the initial brittle notes are quickly suffused by a boiling singular intensity, while tunes like “Impending Halfhead” deliver full-on thrash from the outset. Some tracks, like the prog-lined “Bringer of Greater Things” and “Cut into the Earth,” pull back the battering beats, wrapping the lyrics in more wailing and plaintive notes. Listeners needn’t be dialed directly in to Propagandhi’s politics to get the music; it’s a perfectly lobbed punk grenade by itself. Maybe it’s not the ingenious marvels of the mid-’90s that the band unleashed, but Potemkin City Limits is a little bit of a purposeful force—welcome indeed after all the factory-farmed, shrink-wrapped punk kids are being fed today. 

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