Propagandhi Resuscitates Punk at the Firebird: Review
November 4, 2012
Before it became a simple formula, punk was a term used to describe bands whose urgent and passionate sound didn't conform to any typical rock n' roll standards; punk bands had actual unique identities. How do you easily summarize the differences between bands like the Dead Kennedys, the Misfits, Fear, and so many others?
But soon enough punk rock became a stagnant mold of its own: One Propagandhi seem dead set on shattering into a thousand intricate little pieces.
Forget ideology for a second. The band's technicality and precision are unreal - the albums are full of the kind of impossible passages you might find in a Dillinger Escape Plan or Meshuggah song. Even more shocking is how effortless it all looks as Propaghandi perform it live. Fingers move across fret boards at lightning speeds, grabbing chords you can't make sense of one after another in rapid complex patterns, typically while the heads attached to those hands are singing completely different vocal melodies on top of it all.
Bassist/vocalist Todd Kowalski also acts as the bands cheerleader while flawlessly playing his parts, hopping around with so much enthusiasm that on several occasions this weekend he actually ran off the side of the stage completely.
Drummer Jord Samolesky, by comparison, looks calm and collected. His hands move so fast they are a blur, hitting every drum and cymbal seemingly at random like a Garth Algar solo spazz-out. And oh yeah, all those "double bass drum" parts you hear on the record...that sonofabitch is doing with a single kick pedal.
These guys show the kind of musical talent that make you want to pawn your guitar, purchase a shotgun, and put it to your own head because you will never, ever be able to play like that. But Propagandhi doesn't want you to blow your brains out in frustration; the band sells a guitar and bass tablature book at its merch table so that with 40 or 50 years of practice maybe you too can become a guitar wizard.
All this unholy riffing may also explain why there were more metal heads in attendance than you'd find at an average punk rock show, but one glance at singer/guitarist Chris Hannah's Celtic Frost t-shirt made it clear the connection runs deeper. Hannah even had a Venom sticker on his guitar, which made me think of the days when Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman proudly sported one for the Dead Kennedys on his guitar. Just as Slayer was metal that punks could like, Propagandhi is punk that metal heads can appreciate.