Written by reporter: Bo Liebman
I met the news of the 3 month early leak of Against Me!’s new album with a mix of sadness (for the band that won’t see a gold record anytime soon) and ecstatic joy. After waiting 3 long years for the follow-up to their breakthrough NEW WAVE, they’ve returned with an album of polished punk rock genius.
Lead single, “I was a Teenage Anarchist” is an autobiographical look at singer Tom Gabel’s youth looking for a revolution and the disenchantment when the movement he sought had moved on. Riding a propulsive beat towards an anthemic chorus the song is infectious but too focused in its lyrics to become the hit it deserves to be. Lyrics, however, are their strength.
A.M! have an amazing ability to turn a complicated phrase into a hook. The title track leads up to the chorus with “I’ll make my way back home to you, head North on Saint Marco Avenue,” and after hearing that, you’ll be singing it back word for word. It helps that the songs slamming drums, electric folk guitar riff, and group vocals on the chorus make it a perfect fist-pumping arena rocker.
Old time fans of the band will seethe over their mainstream shift, missing the sloppy, rowdy punk sound they started out with, but they just have to get over themselves. With producer Butch Vig’s help, A.M! have evolved into a radio ready rock force with lyrics that aren’t afraid to tackle diverse themes from homosexuality to abortion, from heartache to poverty.
Not every song is a gem though. “We’re Breaking Up” is an on-the-nose ballad lazily written and “Rapid Decompression” is an uninspired track better fitting Pennywise. Yet, by the time you’ve made it to the album’s stand-out closer, you’ll agree the band is the rightful heir to Bad Religion’s throne of brainy, energetic punk rock and roll.
****Editor’s note: Here’s the EP with some of the songs Bo was blabbing about****