Saturday, October 8, 2011

How To Clean Everything! Reviews of Vital Punk/Hardcore Records

Every Sunday here at Foster Disbelief I will look at one album that made me who I am, and how it has stood the test of time. No matter what my current beliefs, I never would have been interested in politics if it wasn't for political punk. Yeah, sometimes the lyrics are cringe inducing, but some ideas are still vital.

One of my goals with this blog is to prevent young, brilliant, radicals from throwing their lives away, either thru naivety, or self-destruction. That Circle A shirt I wore? Naive. The heroin I shoved in my arms? Waste of life and talent.

Here's to reaching one person. That would satisfy me.

With that being said, perhaps the most influential record of my youth, and one of the best political punk albums ever, Propagandhi's first album, from 1993, How To Clean Everything

First cut, Anti-Manifesto

Listen to Anti-Manifesto Here

Dance and laugh and play. Ignore the message we convey.
It seems we're only here to entertain.
A rebellion cut-to-fit. I refuse to be the soundtrack to it.
While we entertain we're still knee-deep in shit.
There's something wrong inside.
We've played it safe, enjoyed the ride.
You won't like this but I've something to confide.
We stand for something more than a faded sticker on a skateboard.
Now we've rained on your parade and we're out the door.
And I don't even care any fucking more.

How many times, in bands or in the crowd, have I felt the same way? The knowledge that 99% of the people listening are ignoring any purpose you have? Watching as the words go unnoticed? Political punk is not just entertainment. Punk was never supposed to be just entertainment.

I am so full of shit.
But I will remain until this self-awareness fades
Until I defeat the purpose of this soapbox that you made.
That you made.

Hypocrites, everyone of us. Some of us realize it.

It don't really matter cuz nothing's ever felt as right as this.

Even when naive, the moral highground was still ours. Anti-Manifesto is still perfect for summing up the thoughts and feelings of those who know versus those who don't care.

Cut two! "Head? Chest? or Foot?"

Listen to Head? Chest? or Foot?

Both an anthem of the underclass and a indictment of the ignorance of the masses.

You're all the same. Just part of their machine.
Perpetuate their dream.
They subsidize your nightclubs and they subsidize your malls.
They herd and brand the masses within painted prison walls.
'Til your freedom of assembly becomes the missiles they create.
Or just mass delusion dancing to this music that you fucking hate.


I'd rather be imprisoned in a George Orwell-ian world
Than your pacified society of happy boys and girls.
I'd rather know my enemies and let you know the same.
Whose windows to smash and whose tires to slash
And where to point the fucking blame.

I would also prefer to know where to focus my rage. If only it was that easy.

Cut three is "Hate, Myth, Muscle, Etiquette"

Listen to Hate, Myth, Muscle, Etiquette

Mark your point of failing. It begins where you concede.
Hesitate. Procrastinate. Sedating.
All configured to impede your path.
You need a good kick in the ass.

In today's society, it is so easy to not care. Internet, tv, movies, etc. The masses need to wake up.

Mark my point of failing. It began where I gave in.
Comfort. Convenience. Placating.
Construed to suck me in, to their trap.
I need a good kick in the ass.

Even the Dissenters need a kick in the ass at times.

As time passed I realized we don't need rules to survive.
Just common sense and means to subsist.
So from here on in I will resist.

Cringe worthy naivety. No rules? Who's going to stop that big idiot from raping your daughter? You? Good luck. Anarchy is a great thought experiment. Not very good in practice, and I haven't even asked about who is going to fix the sewers.

And then they follow that with perhaps the best lyrics of the whole album. Figures.

The basis of change: educate! Derived from discussion,
not hate, not myth, not muscle, not etiquette.
Intellect, not "re-elect!".
Status symbols yield to respect between sex, species, environment.

One point I will always hammer home. Educate. Educate. Educate! Educate! Without education we are ignorant, and while ignorance may be bliss, it is not useful or helpful.

Next comes Showdown Listen to Showdown.

At first glance, it seems like a strange song. Then you realize what the name means, and it makes sense. There are two perspectives in this song as I see it. The view of the dissident, and the view of the man just trying to make it through life emotionally intact.


Waking up each morning with confusion in my eyes.
The wind is biting through to wave "hello".
Seeing my reflection, an exterior of lies.
I hope this shaky feeling doesn't show.
As if I had to tell you there was little left to say.
Stilted conversations colored blue.
You were sitting down and you got up to walk away.
I tried to stay but I was right behind you.
Tension in the stair, I cannot bear so close to helpless
as this song I sing. Inside me ring.
Final words are boring, never touch,
I know you whispered something in my ear.
I couldn't hear you.
Girls with the greenest eyes. The first time you have kissed.
Our quiet softest sighs.
A song for all of those who shot and missed.


Welcomed to this world, imputed identity.
Born, tagged, tattooed, pacified.
Generously bestowed my rights and privileges replete.
Arbitrary values ascribed.
There's nothing I can tell you. There's nothing I can say.
Stunted conversation, censored thought.
I'm completely free, at liberty, guaranteed
Unless of course you decide I'm not.
But I'll not be resigned to, fall in line behind you.
Tension in the air I cannot bear
So what the fuck am I accomplishing? Absolutely nothing.
All these words are boring, it's time for action.
But you've taught me to be a pawn.
It won't last for long.
Those who see through the lies are quickly gagged and bound.
Ambition realized, tear the whole fucking thing down.

Can't get much different than that. And a special roll of the eyes at the "tear the whole fucking thing down." Really? Destruction is the easy part, it's the rebuilding that is a bitch.

5th song is Ska Sucks. On a future album, you can hear the singer chanting "I hate this song" as the opening notes are played. Not even going to cover it. All ska bands are in it for the money? Pot, I'd like you to meet kettle. Oh, you aren't in it for the money? Then why the fuck do you think all ska bands are?

6th Cut. Middle Finger Response.

A song dealing with how comfort can cause us to close our eyes.

Why am I not part of this?
Pine cone wealth and cedar fence bliss?

The cry of the underclass.

Nobody cares about the state of affairs.
You can turn blue in the face, but you cannot erase.
Oblivious to the obvious.
I'm making perfect sense but I'm not getting through.

Yeah, I feel like that once a day.

But don't expect to find me with a note left to be read.
Pistol in my hand and a bullet in my head.
Because this census indicates and this atlas has related
3 billion humyns I haven't irritated.
I've got a lot of work to do. 3 billion people.
That's 3 billion snotty Fuck you's
Fuck you, fuck all of you.

Yeah, it's snotty, it's cliched, and it is naive. How is telling the whole world to fuck off going to solve anything?

At the same time, I'm alive because of that cliched lyric. Sometimes, even cliches can make you think twice.

Next cut, "Stick The Fucking Flag Up Your Goddam Ass, You Sonofabitch"

And this is the cut that went on the comps, that was fucking everywhere during my junior and senior year. And this is rhetoric that does nothing to help us or our cause. "Fuck the troops?" Welcome to political irrelevance. And then there is this:

Well, if you're dumb enough to vote,
You're fuckin dumb enough to believe him.

Great. Tell a generation of leftist radicals not to vote. Good idea.

The next track is "Haillie Sellasse, Up Your Ass" Those not in the know, know it as "Fuck Religion." One of the classic punk songs of the last 30 years. No comment needed.

You speak of Rastafari, but how can you justify belief
In a god that's left you behind?
You've simply filled the gap between the upper and lower class
And your faith merely keeps you in line.
An amalgamation of jewish scripture and christian thought.
What will that get you? Not a fuck of a lot.
Take a look at your promised land.
Your deed is that gun in your hand.
Mt. Zion's a minefield. The West Bank. The Gaza Strip.
Soon to be parking lots for American tourists and fascist cops.
Fuck zionism. Fuck militarism. Fuck americanism.
Fuck nationalism. Fuck religion.

How do you follow absolute perfection? How about with the song that made me a feminist? "Fuck Machine"

It's something physical, conditioned reaction.
It's something physical, conditioned attraction.
But have I finally escaped?
Will my eyes no longer rape the innocent womyn, children, humyn beings?
Seeing the pain that it brings.

There is no way I could ever explain how much these lyrics still affect me. What is my failing?

Shallow, superficial decision.
Real beauty obscured by my television.
But this just in! Bikini film at ten.
The female anchor smiles and shrugs it off,
"Boys will be boys!"
Do you really wanna be our fucking toys?
And in again, condone it with a grin.
Sit back, idly chat, smile, prove you're just a fuck machine.
Is that what you really wanna fucking be??
Conditioned reaction. Conditioned attraction.
Conditioned suggestion. Conditioned rejection.

36 years of social conditioning to find one and only one body type attractive. I could never explain how hard that is to fight, especially when so many women accept what they are told and play to it.

And yet again, subjecting womyn.
The female anchor's fists finally clinched,
"I'm not your fucking toy!"

Yes, I get chills every single time I hear that lyric. This song beats me down, and then builds me up, reminding me of my failings, while expressing my beliefs and calling my bluff. The end of the song is everything I want in a womyn.

And though I long to embrace, I will not misplace my priorities:
Humor, opinion, a sense of compassion, creativity,
And a distaste for fashion.

Nail? Meet hammer. Foster? Meet Failing. This society does not make it easy.

Next cut, "This Might Be Satire" And yeah, it just may be satire.

I wanna chew my bubble gum with you.
And I wanna walk you home from school.
And I wanna carry your books to every class.
And I wanna fuck you up the ass.
Girl, don't you know it's true, how much I love you.
I wanna sing it 'cross the land, oh won't you hold my hand?
She tells me that she loves me,
Now I'm gonna tell her that I love her.
She tells me that she loves me,
Now I'm gonna try and fuck her.
But where the hell are my priorities?
Left in the hands of the authorities.

They follow the satire with a song that I hope the GLBT movement found and made their own. I know I heard myself called "fag," and "queer" once too often for a straight guy. I have no idea what it would actually be like to actually be what people fear that much. This song got me through some tough times, I hope it reached who it was intended for. It works for any dissenters. The gay rights message is overt in my mind. I will never forget this band for helping me with this issue. As a straight male in pennsyltucky, believe me, peer pressure was not leaning towards being Gay-Positive.

"Who Will Help Me Bake This Bread?"

You can rearrange my face but you can't rearrange my mind.
You can beat this shell about me, but you can't touch what's inside.
So now who will help me bake this bread?
Who will be the first to speak and leave complacency for dead?
I've done all that I can on my own.
But stagnant minds persist to squeeze blood from this stone.
But I won't bleed for you. I have no need for you.
Death will be the day I concede to you.

"Death will be the day I concede to you." If I adopted one motto from the punk scene, there it is.

Then, for some reason they finish the album with a Cheap Trick cover with a vegan message added in.

"I want you to want me"
Which honestly is a confusing end to a masterpiece of political punk.

The vegan message involves a girl named Megan who obviously doesn't eat meat. The song ends with:

She don't eat bacon.
She'd never kill a sweet little innocent piggy to get bacon.
She's one of them vegans.
She's so sweet loving sweet talking lovable vegan.
And that's alright.

And then comes a chorus of "Fuck" Don't ask me, it's not my album.

Propagandhi is still around, although the bassist from this album, John K. Samson split off and formed The Weakerthans Personally, with the departure of Samson, Propagandhi went in a musical direction I didn't like, although I always check up on them and would definitely see them if they played close.

Some lyrics are cringe inducing, yet the over all pro-feminist, anti-racist, gay-positive ideals were/are vital to young punks forming their ideals, especially in conservative areas. As long as education is mixed in, this is an album that will have meaning for years, if not decades.

Next Week? The Subhumans, The Day the Country Died.

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