Most Propagandhi albums end with something that brings a tear to my eye. Whether it's Less Talk, More Rock's "Refusing to be a Man" or Today's Empires, Tomorrow's Ashes's "Purina Hall of Fame," they're songs that just hit me in the gut. Propagandhi's latest album ends with the song "Adventures in Zoochosis." Similar to "Purina," which started with the sounds of someone literally beating the life out of a pig, "Zoochosis" starts with the sounds of children, overlayed with some of Donald Trump's most despicable phrases.
"Zoochosis," mind you, is the term for the repetitive and self-damaging behavior of captive animals. Relating this to the modern political climate, you get a song of immense defeat, with a trickle of hope at the end.
[Edit: Another unfinished idea. The lyrics here are incredible, and I wanted to go through them in more detail, but never got around to it. Having spent the last decade thinking about poverty and politics, I thought it'd be fun to play with the more abstract thoughts. But in reality the actual impetus was that I was supposed to be working on my dissertation and was using this as a distraction.]
I hold out for consensus
Give the masses the benefit of the doubt
Insist the democratic process will bear this population out
I think my only fear of death is that it may not be the end
That we may be eternal beings and must do all of this again
Oh, please lord, let no such thing be true
Though I suspect if I slink back to my enclosure
Safe and warm and adequately lit
Sufficiently plumbed and ventilated
Well, let's just say I would not shake a stick
And if pressed, I'll admit
I'm ecstatic about the enrichment programs
Implemented to extend our captive lifespans
I'm excited to see what our keepers have planned
Perhaps a bigger cage? Longer chains?
Some compelling, novel reasons to remain?
"Dad, are we gonna die?"
Yes son, both you and I
But maybe not today
Boys, I've bowed to the keeper's whip for so damn long
I think the sad truth is this enclosure
is where your old man belongs
But you, your hearts are pure
When the operant conditioners come to break you in
I'll sink my squandered teeth
You grab your little brother's hand, run like the wind
And if I'm not there, don't look back
I don't give a fuck about the enrichment programs
Implemented to extend our captive lifespans
Motherfucker gonna get a load of what I got planned
Oh, Malkie. He's been a co-chair to my mental health for many, many years now. In times of sadness, he lifts me up through commiseration, and in times of happiness he gives me perspective.
His music has been the hardest for me to describe. Simply, his albums tend to be guitar-focused pop and acoustic folk with some electronic elements, what you might expect to come out of the greater UK area. They're catchy songs and Malcolm's Scottish accent comes across as invariant, but central to each song. His lyrics are dark, often self-deprecating, with occasional funny non-sequiturs.
That's a drastic simplification. Indeed, there's a brilliant musicianship to all his albums - this is a masterful songwriter, where the songs are catchy, but complex, a blending of styles into unique non-composite forms. The last two albums Malcolm's put out have been explicitly electronic, a kind of in-depth exploration of form that he mostly danced around for the past two decades with his previous solo and Arab Strap albums. If anything, these albums seemed to be an expression of boredom and a desire to reclaim what he loved about making music. I get the impression that if he's not pushing the limits of his music, he's not enjoying it. Even though he may enjoy having fans, I don't get the impression he's doing this for us.
Oddly, I find that when I try to describe Malcolm's music that I tend to think more about Malcolm the person, instead of, say, 'Bananas' the album. There's more in each album than the style or musicianship. There's a brutal honesty to his expression. An honest-to-god low-level depression. The kind that would keep a man from getting too cocky, yet let him remain kind of an asshole.
We might say Malcolm writes pop songs about sadness, but, like a true Scotsman, the sadness comes from within. There are no grains of salt to the lyrics, but an appreciable self-deprecating wit that helps to keep an even keel. From the man who brought you "Fuck It, I Love You" comes "Love is a Momentary Lapse in Self-Loathing," with lyrics like, "Fuck off with your happiness" set to an upkey stomping piano.
[Edit: I found this unpublished post from 2+ years ago. I think I never posted it because I never finished it. The main point was to try to describe this artist that I've been struggling to describe for like a decade. Hilarious that I didn't finish it. But I like my writing here, and don't think tacking on some half-assed ending in my current state of mind would do it any justice, so here ya go, here's half an idea.]
[Second edit: I don't know why this starts with Track 10, which is a B-Side, but the player contains the whole album, and I highly suggest starting with Track 1.]
I'm supposed to be prepping for an interview, so I thought I'd share this song I absolutely love.
I have a lot of words about Hum, as I've been a fan for 25 years and this is their first album in 20, but I'll have to save that due to the aforementioned lame reason. Generally, though, this was my favorite release of the last year. It took me entirely by surprise, having found out about it about a month after its release.
This is a complex album with some really amazing moments, but this song is the first one that really grabbed me. I'm kind of beyond the point of telling if an album is "good" or not, but for Hum that's kind of irrelevant to me anyway. This song hit me like I'd unearthed a favorite song of mine from childhood. It's just so immediately familiar and personal. It literally feels like it was lifted from Hum in 1995.