Get the Flash Player to see this player.
For some records, the quality of the songs on them is only part of their lasting appeal; the historical merit of the record coming along when it did is part of the story too, as is the personality of the band as it appeared at the moment the tape rolled. That all contributes to the make-up of a classic album but, more than that, there is something intangible about the music which causes it to continue standing out years after its release, just as it did when it was brand new. The new reissue of Propagandhi's debut album, How To Clean Everything, exemplifies all of that; it stood peerless in 1993 (in part because no one in Canada was making punk like this, and no one was coming out of the wilds of Winnipeg to do it – that's for sure), and the reissue stands as proof both of its quality and the fact that no one makes punk rock records like this anymore. Now – twenty years after its original release – readers would be hard-pressed to find anyone as fast, as smart or as funny as Propagandhi was on How To Clean Everything.
Even with all that said in advance though, those who have never heard How To Clean Everything before will be totally blindsided by what hits them the moment the aptly-entitled “Anti-Manifesto” hits them to open the record. Even now – twenty years after it was originally released – that opening cut has enough wallop to make those who hear it snap to attention; from Jord Samolesky's count in, Propagandhi shatters the expectations that anyone might have had of them by blowing all comers off the line with pure bolts of speed. The speed of Chris Hannah's SG assault is astounding, but even more remarkable is just how tight and solid the band is; by 1993, hardcore bands like Minor Threat, Black Flag, Circle Jerks and NOFX had already broken land speed records in punk with their sometimes unrelenting assaults, but Propagandhi's mix of raw speed with pop-punk and melodic hardcore set a different kind of precedent. There are no stray sparks of chaos, everything in the mix on this song is tightly wound and locked down and, when they unload it here, the band rams down listeners' collective throat quickly and then gets out. “Anti-Manifesto” could be seen as a force of nature or as a thin slice of genius but, either way, that it comes out of nowhere makes it just that much better; there is a lean and scrappiness to Hannah's vocal which screams that he has something to say, but he also wants to be liked (the “While we entertain, we're still knee-deep in shit” line gives that up pretty plainly) and the combination of those two desires delivers a perfect hook. This early, Propagandhi is all about an equal mix of lovable come-ons and dismissive kiss-offs, and it's all essential listening.
With the hook set by “Anti-Manifesto,” Propagandhi just keeps playing the image of deliberately contrary punks with poor attitudes but great pop punk chops for the rest of How To Clean Everything, but it blazes through so fast and has so many fantastic one-liners in it that it never has the chance to get boring. Songs like “Head? Chest Or Foot?,” “Hate, Myth, Muscle, Etiquette,” “Ska Sucks” and “Middle Finger Response” all ride the image of this band being the wise-ass punks in love with the idea of being smart-mouthed, skateboarding public enemies/nuisances, but there's more to the record than just that too; each of those songs is also laced with very smart turns of phrase and, when that doesn't seem right, “Showdown” and “This Might be Satire” change up the gears and pick up a vibe closer to The Minutemen and let the melodies come second to the messages. Because of the way they present it, Propagandhi quickly secure an image of being underrated punk virtuosos and they never lose that at any turn through the album's run-time. Just as it was then, How To Clean Everything still plays like a work of beautiful frustration which gives listeners the whole story of who Propagandhi was at their start.
...Except that it wasn't the whole story, as the twentieth anniversary edition of the album proves.
It's important to say that the original running of How To Clean Everything still sounds as good as ever (the remastering job isn't heavy-handed at all), but this reissue doesn't just rehash the record. As some readers might know, Fat Wreck Chords' owner (and NOFX singer) “Fat” Mike Burkett convinced Propagandhi to trim a few songs out of the album's run-time and, as years have gone by, those songs which were left abandoned have taken on a bit of a mythological status in their own right. Fans have wondered, fans have speculated and fans have hoped to hear those “other” songs, and now they can on this reissue; the three tracks – “Pigs Will Play,” “Homophobes Are Just Pissed 'Cause They Can't Get Laid” and “Leg-Hold Trap” – have been reinstalled here, and a set of demos from the HTCE sessions have also been included.
The upside to hearing the songs which got removed from the album's run-time is that there's no self-evident reason why they were removed, and they don't screw up the rhythm that the album has had set for the last twenty years. In fact, it could be argued that the decision which songs to remove could have been perfectly arbitrary; listening to these songs now, the songs which got pulled could have been any three songs on the album. “Homophobes Are Just Pissed...” is a fantastic indictment of smallminded-ness (which, being from a small Canadian town, I can say exists in abundance in small Canadian towns like Winnipeg) presented in the funniest way the subject can be, and “Pigs Will Play” – while taking the prize for the most loosely assembled track on the album – has some pretty solid slogans to sling around (like “It's a fucking war machine protecting the wealth of the employing class”) which play well and are set up in such a way that every kid in the pit can sing along with them as easily as they can with Propagandhi's cover of Cheap Trick's “I Want You To Want Me.”
Taking the assemblage of the original release of How To Clean Everything along with all the extra material on this reissue into account, there's no question that this reissue is both a worthwhile buy for new fans who want to get an idea of where the shred band now known as Propagandhi started as well as an excellent re-appraisal of the music for longtime fans. This is how the music was originally intended, and it sounds great; this should be regarded as essential listening.
Propagandhi - How To Clean Everything - "Anti-Manifesto" - [mp3]
The twentieth anniversary reissue of How To Clean Everything is out now. Buy it here , directly from Fat Wreck Chords.