Depending on my mood, my top three Propagandhi albums shift position but remain the same: How to Clean Everything, Less Talk, More Rock, Supporting Caste. These albums feature the group’s best writing, in terms of political missives, rock music and humor. Given that Caste came out just last year, I’m still riding on a ’gandhi high. With this week’s release of The Recovered EP online, I was primed for another fix. Culling tracks nixed from the band’s first two albums (i.e. – my other two favorite records), it seemed like the surest of punk rock bets.
This shit sucks.
In hindsight, it seems obvious why Recovered would be a letdown. These songs were forgotten about 15 years ago in favor of tunes like “Anchorless,” “Anti-Manifesto” and the still-relevant “Ska Sucks.” The better songs won. And let’s be honest, frontman Chris Hannah didn’t really come into his own as a lyricist until the new millennium. Sure, there’s a beauty in the directness of “Stick the Fucking Flag Up Your Goddam Ass, You Sonofabitch,” but it’s not exactly the most eloquent, mature form of political discourse. “What Price Will You Pay?” is a bit of a groaner – “How many lives will be taken and crushed out” go the opening lines – on par with Anti-Flag’s weaker lyrical moments. Smashing the state is important, but ya gotta have a good anthem to unite the revolution.
Former member John K. Samson’s contribution, “Leg-Hold Trap,” is a little better. In retrospect, it’s kind of hard to believe the Weakerthans frontman was ever in a hardcore band, but here he is getting verbose and nasally. The music sounds like Clean-era ’gandhi (as in, it sounds like NOFX), and arguably could have been on the album if Samson’s style hadn’t been so completely different from Hannah’s songwriting. Parts of this sound more like indie rock, which probably wouldn’t have gelled with the album. But then again, Samson’s half of “Showdown” was jarring too, so whatever.
“Gamble” is a midtempo number about a lady trying to put the moves on Hannah, and he ain’t having none. It’s catchy, but like the other two songs, doesn’t quite top what the band was turning out in the ’90s. While it and “Leg-Hold Trap” are solid enough, they’re not lost treasures, although super fans might get stoked on these new old songs. Everyone else is better off picking up my top three.