If I had to name the most anticipated album release of 2017, for me it was without a doubt Propagandhi’s Victory Lap. These Canadian punks have been one of my favorite and personally influential bands since I started listening to them during my early punk days many moons ago when I was a teenager. With the insane political climate of the world, the album could not have dropped at a more appropriate time.
From their earlier skate punk days of How To Clean Everything and Less Talk More Rock through their thrashier influences of Today’s Empire, Tomorrow’s Ashes and everything after, Propagandhi has been one of the most consistent bands when it comes to their albums. While many bands pigeon-hole themselves, get stuck in a sound, or sort of just become a parody of themselves, Propagandhi always found ways to evolve their sound or lyrics on each album. Victory Lap also features a lineup change with guitarist Beaver leaving the band and the first album with new(ish) addition Sulynn Hago taking over.
For all the praise I’m giving them though, I have to admit on first listen I was a bit skeptical of Victory Lap, which is why I waited a few days to post about it as I wanted to listen to it a few (hundred) more times. Victory Lap is much more subtle than the in your face heavy riffs of Failed States or Supporting Caste, with the album sounding most like Potemkin City Limits. Minus a few rippers, PCL is my least favorite Propagandhi album, so Victory Lap was a grower for me, but after a few listens I do thoroughly enjoy it.
Don’t get me wrong, the heavy riffs and sarcastic lyrics are still there and the album is very much Propagandhi. You don’t have to look far, with opener title track “Victory Lap” shredding as the band attacks the sorry state of society and slogans such as #NotAllCops and #NotAllMen and has some of the most sardonic lyrics I’ve heard from the band “When the free market fundamentalist steps on a roadside bomb outside of Kandahar bleeding to death/I swear to Ayn Rand/I’ll ask if he needs an invisible hand”.
“Comply/Resist” and “Cop Just Out Of Frame” are perfect examples of what I mean about the more subtle approach musically. Dark, brooding, moody melodies crescendoing and giving way to shredding riffs coming in like a wave of mayhem. Meanwhile with it’s arpeggios and softer tones “Lower Order (A Good Laugh)” could easily be mistaken for a mid-90s emo song if it weren’t for it’s animal rights message. And I like it damn it.
The single “Failed Imagineer” may be my favorite song off the album so far, with it’s nod and tribute to their earlier skate punk days. “Failed Imagineer” is incredibly melodic, surprisingly upbeat with dark lyrics regarding their grandfather’s affected by the devastation of being on the battlefield and the mental anguish of PTSD.
I really like Victory Lap a lot, and find myself constantly listening to it. It definitely is an album of the year contender, and while I’m not sure yet if I like it more than the last few of their releases (which says a lot when it’s not my favorite Propagandhi album but still may be my favorite of the year), anyone who loves Potemkin City Limits will absolutely love this one. It’s definitely their most nuanced and complex* album, and definitely worth listening to.
Also fun/sad not fun fact: the cover art for Victory Lap is actually a photograph of a rollercoaster in the coastal boardwalk town Seaside Heights NJ after Hurricane Sandy decimated it, and as a NJ born native a town I grew up going to and I’ve rode on that rollercoaster plenty of times. The feels man… the feels.
*Meanwhile since I was 16 I’m still just trying to play Nation States on guitar without completely sucking and these new songs just reaffirm how incredibly shitty I am at guitar.