released June 8th, 2010
from the album - Rapid Decompression
from all music
Before becoming a full-fledged punk band, Against Me! was an acoustic solo project spearheaded by Tom Gabel, who began playing shows as a 17-year-old in Gainesville, FL. Starting in 1997, Gabel performed as a solo act wherever anyone would have him, drawing much influence from early acoustic protest music. By 2001, he'd beefed up his sound with the help of a full band — including guitarist James Bowman, drummer Warren Oakes, and bassist Andrew Seward — but there would always be some anarchism and Billy Bragg in the group's raucous braggadocio. After a few initial 12" and 7" releases, Against Me! issued the fan favorite Reinventing Axl Rose in 2002. The underground hit blended elements of punk, folk, and country into socially conscious and impassioned anthems. Continuing their reputation of always being on the road, the musicians logged countless tour dates around the country in support of their early material.
A slightly more polished album, As the Eternal Cowboy, was released in 2003 on the indie label Fat Wreck. After the release of a DVD (We're Never Going Home) and another 7", the band returned with its most mature effort to date, 2005's Searching for a Former Clarity. A subsequent headlining tour in support of the introspective, politically aggressive album saw Against Me! proudly hitting every U.S. state, and they signed with Sire Records in December 2005. They were back on the road by spring 2006, this time opening for the Alkaline Trio, and spent the summer months playing the main stage at the Warped Tour. Though the guys were officially signed to Sire's roster, they released their last indie album in the form of Americans Abroad!!! Against Me!!! Live in London!!!, a concert album recorded while on tour in London with Murder by Death. In July 2007, the band's major-label debut — New Wave, a decidedly more rock-oriented record produced by Butch Vig — hit shelves.
New Wave was the first album by Against Me! to not feature any acoustic tracks; it was also their first on a major label's tab. Reviews were generally favorable, and the band toured heavily in support of its release. By the summer of 2009, drummer Warren Oakes had officially left the group to pursue an alternate career as a restaurateur, eventually opening up a Tex-Mex eatery in Gainesville. Hot Water Music's George Rebelo joined in his place, and the revised lineup re-enlisted Butch Vig to produce the White Crosses album, which appeared in mid-2010.
Against Me!'s major-label debut, New Wave, was their bid into the mainstream music scene, landing them on major festival bills and earning them the praise of national magazines. It was a record with more rock polish than grit thanks to producer Butch Vig, and when longtime drummer Warren Oakes later left and was replaced by former Hot Water Music skinsman George Rebelo, it was pretty clear that their follow-up would even further mark a new chapter for the band — a new lineup, a new energy. But what couldn't be known was just how much of a progression it would be. White Crosses is a big-sounding album with a blue-collar soul, but though the guitars may aim for the rafters alongside lofty, singalong choruses, the songwriting ultimately comes off safer and more commonplace than anything they've done yet. The title track never really hits, and the pointed "I Was a Teenage Anarchist" has Tom Gabel slamming the door on his anarcho-punk past with a wide-open chorus that could use a little more heft. Gone are any traces of the gutsy folk-punk that once made them so exciting; the record's arena-ready tone is set by expansive numbers like "Spanish Moss," a gleaming plea to starting over, and "Because of the Shame," where piano dramatics hug a huge chorus that should make the Springsteen devotees of the last few years (the Gaslight Anthem, Hold Steady, Killers) plenty jealous — but cause longtime fans to do a double take. The latter song is actually one of the record's strongest tracks, though, once the shock of its existence subsides. Elsewhere, "Ache with Me" saunters a slow, window-gazing pace that dulls the record's middle, "Suffocation" is easily forgotten, and the spitfire "Rapid Decompression" is a nice jolt of electricity at the record's end, but it's too little, too late. Gabel spent a lot of time looking back and reflecting for this record — on his youth in Florida, on past relationships, on where he stands now. The resulting album is thus one of growth, disillusion, defeat, and the struggle to come to terms with ideals once held onto so strongly and the realities of growing up and apart from those beliefs. Yet as Against Me! explore their past, they apparently also aim to leave it far behind them. Politics sneak into some songs (most notably in the agitated "High Pressure Low"), but the guys largely seem burnt out on protesting, which is understandable, but it's too bad that the raw intensity in Gabel's voice had to be sacrificed as well. Ultimately, White Crosses is not Against Me!'s finest hour. Bands grow up, get restless, and continue developing with every album, so it's not the soul-searching and progression that brings on the disappointment — it's that the bandmembers seem to have done so by completely turning their backs on their past.
1 White Crosses Gabel 3:36
2 I Was a Teenage Anarchist Gabel 3:15
3 Because of the Shame Gabel 4:21
4 Suffocation Gabel 3:55
5 We're Breaking Up Gabel 3:57
6 High Pressure Low Gabel 4:12
7 Ache with Me Gabel 3:38
8 Spanish Moss Gabel 3:51
9 Rapid Decompression Gabel 1:46
10 Bamboo Bones Gabel 3:35