Reviewed by Ian Morales.
After Against Me!’s last album, New Wave, expectations were high for any follow up they’d produce. The album was very impressive from beginning to end and is soon to be a classic as the years go by. Now the Gainsville, Florida, punk rockers have come out with that follow up, White Crosses. For current fans, White Crosses is the Against Me! record you’ve waited three years for. It isn’t as good as New Wave, or as raw as some of their early EPs hardcore fans rave about online so much, but it is definitely not a disappointment in any sense of the word.
The first single, “I Was A Teenage Anarchist,” is the best track on the record. The spirit, the message and sound make it a heavy favorite for the punk rock summer anthem of 2010. It is the perfect song to bring together the aging but not old punks (such as the punk writing this review) and today’s young Warped Tour crowd. The young crowd, years from now, will remember “I Was A Teenage Anarchist” as the time when music was good while the older currently enjoy the memories of our youth that the song triggers.
While “I Was A Teenage Anarchist” is the standout single, the rest of White Crosses is a solid listen from beginning to end with only a couple of exceptions. Also throughout the record are a few surprises. The first and probably biggest surprise was “Bob Dylan Dream.” While hardcore fans know frontman Tom Gabel does his own solo thing in this sort of folk realm, it was interesting that the song made it onto White Crosses. The lyrics are incredibly descriptive and witty. Add some harmonica and you have a punk rock Blues Traveler song. Not bad.
The other surprise is the pop-punk, radio friendly “Because of the Shame.” More Ben Folds-like piano adds the pop element needed to soften it up for mainstream rock radio while the punk rock backbone of the song keeps it accessible to older Against Me! fans. Gabel’s gritty vocals and screams can never be completely pop, so don’t let the word “pop” frighten you if you prefer harder stuff. Great lyrics and good instrumentation keep it from disappointing.
While on the subject of disappointment, it is likely many will want to skip over “Ache With Me” as it lacks punch or edge, even for a slower folk ballad-like track. It’s not terrible, but definitely forgettable. While you are skipping songs, skip over “Bamboo Bones.” It sounds too much like it was written for an inspirational movie theme or hero scene of some sort. It’s not bad, but another forgettable one.
Other notable tracks worth mentioning on White Crosses include the title track, for its potentially controversial subject matter and lyrics. “White crosses on the church lawn, I want to smash them all” are some of the lyrics that may make some Religious Right members perk their ears up, but before getting upset I’d advise listening to the whole song. Still, we all know that probably won’t happen and people may protest. “We’re Breaking Up” is an interesting breakup song and an interesting move for an Against Me! track. Listeners will also enjoy the harder, more traditionally punk “Rapid Decompression”.
The final verdict? Great addition for current Against Me! fans. Great record to win over new fans. Great tunes you will want to hear live. White Crosses is a mid-year entry for album of the year lists, including Red River Noise.
Against Me! | White Crosses | Sire Records | Release: June 8, 2010 | Rating: 8.0 of 10