I listen to lots of different bands but there are only a select few to which I have pledged undying loyalty. All of them were, at some point, releasing records that really spoke to me, but a band can only stay relevant for so long (except for NOFX who will be good forever). Weezer, Rancid and Alkaline Trio can always count on me to shell out big bucks to buy whatever polished turd they're cranking out. Sure, I'm not expecting Rancid to make another Life Won't Wait nor Weezer another Pinkerton, but i still have some lingering hope in my heart of hearts. Another band to earn my unconditional love is Against Me!.
In college, the Floridian folk-punk quartet supplied an intelligent soundtrack for my four years of recklessness. Everyone that I knew back then who liked Against Me! was very passionate about the band. It seems that with Against Me!, more than with most other bands, the connection between the fans and the music was very personal. There were no light-weight Against Me! fans; just people who screamed along to every word and people who had no idea who they were.
This all changed, of course, when the band released their controversial, polarizing and extremely successful fourth album, New Wave. Leading up to the album's release, punk rock message boards were filled with shit-talking posts from people who were jumping off of one bandwagon and onto another. There were, of course, cries of "Sellout", but a lot of the criticisms were directed at the music itself. Where Against Me! had once written raw, heartfelt manifestos of youthful anarchy and was the flagship of progressive punk songwriting, their songs now seemed more streamlined and the message was (if there even was a message) was much more vague.
But Against Me! was able to dodge the massive barrage of shit in their transition from the underground to the spotlight. The big critics loved New Wave and it sold like hot cakes, an impressive feat considering the long history of punk bands who stumbled on their way up (Jawbreaker?). Despite what the detractors said about the album, it contained some great songs. Sure, they weren't the same as the rough (yet brilliant) tracks on their legendary demo tape Vivada Vis, but they were still good...just in a different way. And "Thrash Unreal" was easily the best song of 2007.
- "I was a teenage anarchist but then the scene got too rigid. It was mob mentality. They set their rifle sights on me."
Now in 2010, Against Me! is back with a new album White Crosses and a new barrage of shit-talk. One would think that the angry (ex)fans would have said all that they had to say on some punknews.org thread when they were complaining about New Wave. Apparently they were holding back. I myself had low expectations for White Crosses because i feared that frontman Tom Gabelwould still be writing songs about the record industry. Well, he got that all out of his system on New Wave and has moved on.
I recently got a copy of the leaked album (it's not out until June) and I must say that I am pleasantly surprised. If seems that Tom Gabel has finally written the album he has always wanted to write. It's short and sweet and to-the-point. It's personal, but easily accessible. Each song is ready to be a radio hit, but a good radio hit at that. If New Wave put the band in the spotlight, then White Crosses will put them on the top.
Sure, it may be a bummer to discover that your well-kept-secret of a favorite band is being played on the radio, but it's not the end of the world. I for one am just fine with it as long they keep writing good records. I just pre-ordered White Crosses and I am crossing my fingers that they don't overlook Indianapolis (note: they have NEVER played here, and Warped Tours don't count) when they embark on their next 18 months of touring.