Monday, August 23, 2010

I'd Love to Turn You On #16: Propagandhi - How to Clean Everything

I was first given a copy of Propagandhi’s How to Clean Everything on cassette tape, copied for me by a friend and fellow writer, Andrew Kiraly. We wrote together at what is now City Life in Las Vegas and were talking about our punk scene the day before, as always. There was lots of violence, shows in the desert couldn’t happen because of white supremacists and they ruined Elks Lodge shows too. Fugazi had to stop a show and kick some Neanderthals out, calling all the girls on stage because guys were beating them up purposefully just for being there in the first place.
When Andrew introduced me to Propagandhi – late summer ’93, I believe – I was angry, totally taken aback by these guys. They made me angry not at the world, but at myself. I had heard bands like NOFX, Fugazi, and Bad Religion produce thought-provoking, intense hardcore punk but Propagandhi was different, they called for an inner revolution above all. It was like Bob Dylan meets the Sex Pistols.
They said “I’d rather know my enemies and let you do the same/whose windows to smash and whose tires to slash.” They would rather “be in prison… than pacified.” Mindless destruction was just another form of apathy really. On “Fuck Machine” they reflect on their own sexism and the subjugation of women. Mercilessly, they expose the sellouts in the ska revival, the government, and Haile Selassie himself. Yet what makes them so timeless is their consistently brutal introspection. They were pro-active purists, urging listeners to consume less, produce more, but to be extremely mindful of what it is you are producing and who you produce it for. Forget about ever fitting into a society that doesn’t allow you to question it; first and foremost, it’s not one worth fitting into.
“We strive to be something more than a faded sticker on a skateboard” as stated in their “Anti-Manifesto” is a fucking glorious, penetrating call to action. My friends Andrew and Boyde Wingert were influenced heavily by these guys, started a band called Bobafett Youth, and brought back non-violent, more-fun-than-you’ve-ever-had-in-your-life desert shows, powered by generators and a desperate need for vicious, hilarious, intelligent hardcore in Las Vegas, then a musical wasteland. Shows popped up all over town in the weirdest places: the Elks Lodge, the Post Office, Dan Heit’s pool, the drainage ditch. It was D.I.Y. or Die. That was what hearing Propagandhi was all about in 1993. It was time to grow up, those of us who made it out alive, but we didn’t grow up complacent or uncaring consumers. We grew up better for having had Propagandhi in our lives and we never stopped questioning society’s ills, nor did we condone them. Maybe none of us will ever fit in to a societal pigeonhole, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. The price tag is just too high and “their” music just isn’t that good.

For Lynn “Spit” Newbom and Daniel Shersty, murdered for their beliefs in anti-racism on July 4 by fascist skinheads. They are gone but never forgotten.

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