Reviews – September 4, 2012

Propagandhi – Failed States
Album review
The theme, “less talk and more rock,” still captures the energy that Propagandhi unloads with their sixth full-length release, Failed States. The roots of Propagandhi’s metallic trash/punk/hardcore sound are implanted deep within radical politics which remains sarcastically complex, a clear achievement from the initial beginnings of an outspoken pop-punk band from rural Canada.
I feel that members in the band would strongly resent nationality determining their worth, but with over 20 years of Propagandhi, they deserve the title of true musicians.
With the album title Failed States paying tribute to Noam Chompsky’s Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy, Propagandhi reinstates the argument against Western imperialism by supporting Chompsky’s understanding that the United States is becoming a “failed state”, and thus a danger to its own people and the world.
I will not deny my love for bands who cleverly use malicious song titles and lyrics to introduce their righteous guitar solos, intense ballads and critical politics, and Propagandhi is no exception. Ideology aside, Failed States brings the familiar exuberant guitar and drum combination that Chris Hannah and Jord Samolesky have perfected over Propagandhi’s time, and more people should become acquainted with this album.
(Epitaph, 2012)
-Vic Mucciarone

Stars – The North
Album review
Stars, Montreal indie pop band has just released The North, an album that could possibly receive critical acclaim in the upcoming months. Stars has been together since 2000. Akin to acts such as Broken Social Scene and Memphis, they released albums through Arts & Crafts, Soft Revolution, Le Grand Magistery and Paper Bag, which are all formidable platforms for many indie artists. The North has been released by Soft Revolution Records and ATO (According To Our) Records.
Stars’ duet ascetic radiated from The North captures the feelings that Nightsongs (2001), Set Yourself On Fire (2004) and subsequent releases have. Amy Millan and Torquil Campbell, both from Toronto, have always sung beautifully together, emotionally drawing listeners into the stories that the synthesizer progression typically leads.
The North, although strong in romantic harmonies, lacks a clear direction. While tracks such as “The Theory of Relativity” and “Hold On When You Get Love And Let Go When You Give It” re-imagine 80s pop with vigor, tracks like “Do You want to Die Together” sounds misplaced like a tacky musical soundtrack and “Progress,” for me, falls flat.
Perhaps hearing the upbeat intro track left me anticipating more from The North, but still showcases how versatile and stylistically interesting the musicians are.
(Soft Revolution/ATO, 2012)
– Vic Mucciarone

Killer Mike – R.A.P Music
Album review
Atlanta rapper Killer Mike and legendary New York City underground producer El-P probably seem an unlikely pairing to those familiar with their respective back catalogues, but viewed in the right context it is a match made in music heaven. Killer Mike’s intelligent but angry lyrics and almost shouted delivery draw frequent comparisons to Ice Cube and El-P’s densely layered, hard hitting sound and likened to the legendary Bomb Squad – those two forces combined to create the legendary album Amerikkka’s Most Wanted.
Just like Ice Cube on Amerikkka’s Most Wanted, Killer Mike has found the perfect balance between braggadocio, street talk and politics.
Just like the Bomb Squad on that same album, El-P has created a sound that has roots in the music scene the rapper grew up in with that hard hitting and energetic sound that is distinctly NYC.
It is a sound that works for Killer Mike because even though he has an obvious love for that smooth southern rap sound, it does not really work for him. He is rapping with urgency and purpose and with an energy that does not fit with that sound. The injection of aggression and energy that El-P provided is exactly what was needed to allow Killer Mike to reconcile two rap personas that seemed to be at odds with each other in the past: the street hustler and the educated politically active, socially conscious family man.
On this record he moves between both worlds effortlessly, touting his crew as the “readers of the books and leaders of the crooks”, spending as much time discussing the lasting impact of Reaganomics as he does talking about his watches and his cars and goes beyond talking about drug dealing in the ghetto and into talking about why there is drug dealing in the ghetto.
I could write 1,000 words on this album and still feel like I was leaving something out because there is so much going on here, which is indicative of a depth that you do not see often in modern rap music.
If you are one of those rap fans who longs for a return to the golden age of Ice Cube, Public Enemy, KRS-One and co. – this is the album you have been waiting for since 1997. If you are one of those rap fans who grew up on club hits and will not cringe when rappers talk about “swag,” this album was made to open your eyes and show you how it is supposed to be done.
(Williams street, 2012)
– Nervous Pervis

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