A recent picture of the band Propagandhi shows four guys, a few of them approaching middle age, who look more about golf or office jobs than flat-out aggressive rock and roll. Founded in Manitoba in 1986 by Chris Hannah and Jord Samolesky (David Guillas is the most recent addition; Todd Kowalski joined in 1997), Propagandhi is a punk band into which speed metal has slowly infiltrated over the years. Today, they call themselves a secular rock band. Others refer to what they do as progressive thrash.
They bear some resemblance to Rush, another Canadian export, in that Propagandhi is prone to intricate ensemble playing, jarring meter changes, and left-leaning political activism. But the comparison ends there. Rush has always been a metal-for-the-masses outfit while Propagandhi is, in the spirit of punk, sarcastic to the point of being offensive. In “Human(e) Meat (The Flensing of Sandor Katz),” a song about animal rights, Propagandhi cooks a food writer to the groaning sounds of his agony and makes a “spreadable head cheese” of the remains.
Known for granting free downloads of their songs to fans who donate to the band’s favored charities (the list includes Peta2 and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society), a listener is hard-put not to notice the intellect, twisted or not, as put forth in the band’s lyrics. “Is breathing just the ticking of an unwanted clock/ Counting down the time it takes for you to comprehend/ The sheer magnitude of every single precious breath you’ve ever wasted?”
Granted, Propagandhi is punk-savage, and the world they inhabit is straight out of Kafka, but after an hour or two of listening, at volume, their tilted logic comes through. “You’re not really mad at Iran or Afghanistan,” sings Chris Hannah, “You’re mad at the fact that your wife can’t stand you anymore.” Entertainment? Yes, but not for the faint of heart.
PROPAGANDHI: Soma, Saturday, May 30, 7 p.m. 619-226-7662. $15.