I’m back on board with Against Me!.
I’ve been a fan of the band for quite some time now, having first seen them in 2004 when they were second on the bill of Anti-Flag’s The Terror State tour. Then, they were a bunch of dirty, kinda-sorta anarcho punks playing fast songs that featured some well timed screams from a less-than imposing Tom Gabel. At that show, during Anti-Flag’s last song they came out on stage (with New Mexican Disaster Squad) and reigned havoc for about 30 seconds. It. Was. Awesome.
Needless to say, I bought a copy of Eternal Cowboy, the record they were promoting at the time, and fell in love with a group I saw endless potential in. I’ve seen the band eight more times since then, but haven’t made the effort to see them again since 2008. Why? Well, they lost me. And not because they signed to a major label, I could give a shit less about that. But rather because that intensity I once saw in the group was gone.
I didn’t mind Former Clarity, and honestly the record has grown on me since it was first released. I think their live record is one of the better live records I own, and it really does capture how amazing the group is live. I even gave them a pass on New Wave. No, it wasn’t quite a punk record, but that’s what happens: punks grow up and start writing new music that isn’t exactly punk (and people who bitch about that fact need to realize that not everyone can be NOFX). There were some very good songs on that record, very catchy and overall it was a good rock record.
But that was my last gas. I saw the group twice on the New Wave tour cycle, and once at a Warped Tour stop and that was it. They kind of took a break there and I missed them a time or two when they came through because they just weren’t what I wanted at the time.
But then, of course, came White Crosses.
I say, without reservation, that I really don’t like White Crosses at all. The record is shit. It’s not a good punk record, and it’s not a good rock record. “Teenage Anarchist” is a decent song, and “Rapid Decompression” has its moments, but really? This is their best effort? No, I expected more from the band.
I wrote (on a different site), when White Crosses came out, about how I was disappointed with the record, again not because it wasn’t a punk record, but because it came from a group with endless potential. Against Me! could have easily been like former labelmates Rise Against and used their new major-label status to catapult them into stardom, but instead, they turned mild, bland, and from what I saw, boring. These were not the guys from Gainesville anymore – this was a processes rock band who was trying too hard to please the radio.
But then an amazing thing happened recently: the group announced they were no longer associated with Sire Records. I think I literally squealed with excitement. But that excitement comes with reservation. Against Me! now has a chance to pull a Less Than Jake-esque comeback, but it’s entirely up to them (with this I’m referring to LTJ’s life burst since leaving their major label, and writing a damn good record after their atrocious In With The Out Crowd). They need to get back to writing songs they want to hear, and honestly, that we want to hear. Scream a little, Tom! Turn those clapping hands into angry balled fists! Let’s hear some passion!
And honestly, I see that passion returning right now. Against Me! have, to my knowledge, two tours coming up. One is with the mighty Dropkick Murphys, the other with the upstart Cheap Girls. This is exactly what they need to do. Tour with punk bands again, play punk shows and get back into the mindset that they are comfortable with. Spin recently talked to Gabel and he had this to say on the loss of a record label (via Punknews.org):
I’m looking forward to being able to move quicker and feeling unburdened in that way. Right now, with everything being wide open, it feels like we can do whatever we want. We can put out a record as quickly as we can write the songs. So we’ll just see what happens.
That sounds like a man on a road to something great. It sounds like he is ready to turn it around. I personally think that he realizes that the band went astray, but he’s now getting back on course. I honestly believe that Against Me! can turn it back around and make good music again. I don’t know if it will be punk, straight rock, or hell, even blues. The point is that this is their shot at a resurrection of sorts, a chance to be a great band again.
So Tom, take your time, spend some time in the van, and write the record we know you’re capable of writing.
I promise I’ll be listening.
(Ed. Note: I wrote this a few days ago, and since Sunday I’ve been packing/flying back from Europe so I haven’t had time to publish it. In that time, Gabel has publicly bashed Sire. Another good step in the right direction.)