Against Me! – New Wave
Moving to a major label can be tough on socially or politically minded groups. Forced to tow the line of the marketing department, many bands fall by the wayside as the restrictions placed upon the creative process overwhelm the spark that made them potent. But not Against Me!. Though the popular punk/rock quartet from Florida have moved from indie-label Fat Wreck to Sire/Warner Bros, their lyrical intensity remains intact whilst their songs retain the passionate delivery that paved the way for their rise. Tweaking their sound to become instantly accessible to rock fans across the musical spectrum, Against Me! visibly mature as they stop idly complaining about the state of popular music and start doing something about it. Opening track 'New Wave' is a prime example.
As a lonesome acoustic riff builds into a crescendo of blistering mid-tempo sound, and frontman Tom Gabel's gravelly roar begins to spew forth his outright call-to-arms to fellow bands, it becomes clear that Against Me! are none the worse for their move. Bemoaning the mainstream for it's deficiency of "original thought", the band pump out a powerful rock number, complete with a soaring, guitar-driven bridge, that throws down the gauntlet to their musical contemporaries ("Let breathe new dawn this art is dead!").
Continuing the same theme, 'Up The Cuts' is another mid-tempo assault on the current state of musical affairs. Characterised by sexy guitar chops and a lofty chorus, 'Up The Cuts' is the vitriolic counterpart to the pleading of the first track. 'Thrash Unreal' follows; a drum-heavy sing-a-long that questions the direction modern society is taking, but ultimately stops short of reaching a definitive conclusion.
Making up for the indecisiveness of the previous number, 'White People For Peace' is exceptionally clear in it's message: opposing warfare with protest songs, whilst noble, is futile. A clear link to the time when punk-rock was at the forefront on the Against Me! sound, 'White People For Peace' underlays Tom Gabel's incendiary vocals with pounding drums, powerfully chugging bass and crunching guitars. The highlight of the album, 'White People For Peace' shows that none of the band's tenacious spirit has dissipated, nor their knack at concocting a toe-tapping-tune. Though the pinnacle of the album appears before the record is half-way through, this doesn't cause the remaining songs to pale in comparison – 'White People For Peace' is merely the cream of a crop of excellent songs.
'Stop!', 'Borne On The FM Waves' and 'Piss And Vinegar' all follow in quick succession to confirm my point. The first, 'Stop!' features a distinctly disco bass-drum/hi-hat combo as the band seek to reassure their fans that their new platform won't alter them: adding a soaring group vocal rounds the song off nicely, leaving a favourably memorable impression. 'Borne On The FM Waves', featuring guest vocalist Tegan Quin, one half of Canadian singer-songwriter duo Tegan and Sara, is a less overt attack on mainstream music, tackling summer lust with an empathic wit and brutal honesty ("We don't really love each other") rarely seen in the picturesque reality regularly purported by the mainstream. Finally, 'Piss And Vinegar', a song flanked by delectable riffs, morphs into an explicit anti-populist anthem challenging the band's peers to "say what you're thinking" and not shirk behind a "middle of the road opinion that no one finds offensive or challenging".
The album finishes with three more stunning tracks, however I shall leave them untouched for you to discover yourselves – that's half the fun with this band.
Against Me! have created a stormer with 'New Wave'. The band has superbly justified their decision to move to a major label, redeemed themselves in the eyes of potentially alienated fans and have produced a fantastic album to boot. With increased muscle behind them and a huge audience now within their reach, Against Me! have crafted a collection of songs that challenge mediocrity and calls on bands and fans alike to do something positive about the drivel pushed by the current system. An accessible rock album with a meaningful point is a rarity these days; Against Me!'s decisive success is worth a punt for anyone looking for some spice this summer.