Propagandhi - Less Talk, More Rock (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Less Talk, More Rock (1996)

Fat Wreck Chords

”Consider someone else. Stop consuming animals."

Propagandhi’s singer Chris Hannah bridges the gap between the opener “Apparently, I’m a ‘P.C. Fascist (Because I Care About Both Human and Non-Human Animals)” and “Nailing Descartes to the Wall/(Liquid) Meat Is Still Murder” and told us all that this album’s title was an ironic one. Well, personally I think the title is only half ironic, as there would indeed be “more rock” as the band was shredding harder than ever, but obviously also “more talk” as Propagandhi has never held back on getting their message across by any means necessary. They do this through the sung and shouted lyrics, spoken interjections, carefully selected sound clips, and the liner notes. The booklet is nearly a novel, one that opened my eyes to a lot of ideas and terms I had not yet been aware of at 16, having grown up in a fairly sheltered, white, middle class suburban town where I was blind to a lot of the world’s troubles at the age I got this album. How to Clean Everything was a political punk record, Less Talk, More Rock was a political statement backed by kickass music.

Less Talk, More Rock is where Propagandhi found the perfect balance between message and biting comedy as well as a balance between melody and heavy, technical riffs. Their debut, which I wrote a classic review for three years ago for 1993 Week, was chock full of ideas, but the execution was a bit sloppy both on the messages and the riffs. They were youngins, and the three years between these albums found they had honed their craft on all fronts. The band had already been together for ten years by the time Less Talk was released, but I’m pretty sure Chris and drummer Jord Samolesky formed the band when they were 13 or 14 so it takes awhile to get to this level of awesomeness.

A large section of Prop’s fans choose a side when it comes to the band’s two eras, the John K. Samson era and the Todd Kowalski era. Rarely has a bassist played such a big part in defining a band. Both added significantly to the band’s sound in terms of being a second songwriter and vocalist. Where Samson brought a sensitive and introspective lyrical style while still making some social points, he was more melodic angle and gentle in his delivery. Kowalski brought and continues to bring even more hardcore elements and a rough vocal style to the proceedings, matching Hannah’s levels of anger but with less melody and more furious screams. Personally, as someone who leans more towards melodic punk than hardcore, the first two albums will always be my favorite, while I still recognize how strong their entire catalog is. It’s almost funny to hear Samson’s voice pop up after coming to know him so much better through The Weakerthans discography (rest in peace, sweet princes), but at the time I saw nothing odd about his nasal, sweet vocal style popping up throughout the album in harmonies and leads, and it was a great balance to Hannah’s vigor and aggression.

The title track is catchy as hell while addressing issues of sexuality and formative, regrettable moments in Chris’ life: ”Did you know that when I was nine, I tried to fuck a friend of mine? HE was 8, then I turned 10. 14 years later it happened again (with another friend). This time me on the receiving end.” The singable nature of this and other songs drive home their messages more so in my opinion, and a problem I’ve had with so many hardcore bands is that when you can’t understand the singer, how can you digest their message? Even when Hannah gives a more hardcore vocal delivery, you can still understand every word, like in “Rio De San Atlanta, Manitoba.”

“And We Thought That Nation States Were A Bad Idea” was the first song many future fans heard from the band, thanks to the hugely influential Fat Wreck Chords second comp, Survival of the Fattest. It captured a perfect example of what the band was all about: technical, metal-influenced riffs, punk speed, well-written melodies with punch (and prominent backup vocals by Samson), and complex political ideas that demanded further investigation on the listener’s part to fully grasp. And in high school, nothing is more fun than singing ”Can you fucking believe? What a stupid world!!!” with a car full of friends, driving around with the windows down. “Resisting Tyrannical Government” is another one of the strongest tracks, with yet more memorable lyrics. Love the hockey references and metaphors (they’re SUCH Canadians): ”Jesus saves, Gretsky scores / The workers slave, the rich get more / One wrong move and we risk the cup / So play The Man, not the puck” with “The Man” in caps.

For being what would be accurately put under the genre “political punk rock,” Less Talk is a very eclectic record. While his songwriting style would grow significantly in later years with The Weakerthans, Samson’s tracks are strong and break up the intense set of songs. “Anchorless” is embryonic here and would be taken further with additional verses on The Weakerthan’s debut Fallow, it’s a great song here and I might like this heavy version better. Later he sings “Gifts,” another strong track providing a breather from the faster, harder tracks. “A Public Dis-service Announcement from Shell” divides the album down the middle in a different way, with Ramsey Kanaan of the anarchist publisher AK Press, playing a Shell CEO over some chromatic-climbing octave bass lines. Most listeners might find this a misstep in the album, but it mixes things up and is not even 90 seconds long.

Less Talk, More Rock ends with one of its strongest songs, “Refusing To Be Man,” which is about Hannah shedding what he was taught about views on treating women and how to be sexual in a respectful way. ”I’m scared of my attraction to body types / If everything desired is objectified then maybe eroticism needs to be redefined / And I refuse to be a “man” was powerful to my young male ears and really made me think. Sadly, it remains an important song 20 years later in our still-patriarchal society.

Argue with me in the comments like I know you will, but Less Talk, More Rock is Propagandhi’s best, and the ensuing debate just proves more of how great and important this band is. Have at it!