“White Crosses,” the latest offering from Florida punk quartet Against Me!, finds singer Tom Gabel on the cusp of turning 30, exploring the awkward and sometimes painful in-between of his youthful punk roots and more moderate (though not politically so) adulthood.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the first single, “I Was a Teenage Anarchist.” Gabel muses, “Do you remember / When you were young and wanted to set the world on fire? / I was a teenage anarchist, but the politics were too convenient.”
Like their major label debut, 2007’s “New Wave,” “White Crosses” (out June 8 ) features anthemic, power chord-driven sing-alongs delivered with a healthy dose of attitude. The tightly-wound record clocks in at just over 35 minutes, and once again at the helm is veteran producer Butch Vig, whose fingerprints are all over the densely mixed 10-song collection. The recent addition of The Hold Steady’s Franz Nicolay as a touring member of the band should flesh out the tunes nicely on their tour dates this summer. And George Rebelo, formerly of Hot Water Music, proves himself to be a worthy substitute for longtime drummer Warren Oakes, who left the band about a year ago under less than amicable conditions.
June 8, 2010
Gabel may have relocated with his wife and infant daughter from the Florida college town music scene of Gainesville to the sleepy beach town of St. Augustine, but it’s clear that his political punk roots haven’t been completely overshadowed by his recent domestication. The album’s title, he’s said, was inspired by the “Cemetery of the Innocents,” a memorial to aborted fetuses, which the singer passed every day while writing the album in St. Augustine, Florida. In the corresponding song, he sneers, “White crosses on the church lawn / I wanna smash them all.”
But, perhaps owing to the regime change between their previous records and this one, some of the political posturing on “White Crosses” feels anachronistic. While earlier releases deftly skewered political figures like Condoleezza Rice and George W. Bush, Gabel now resorts to name-checking â€¦ Robert McNamara?
The strongest songs on “White Crosses” come when Gabel adopts a more reflective, older-and-wiser tone, as on standout track “Because of the Shame,” set at the funeral of, presumably, an ex-girlfriend.
On the country-tinged (yes, you read that right) “Ache With Me,” he wonders, “Do you share the same sense of defeat? / Have you realized all the things you’ll never be? / Ideals turn to resentment / Open minds close up with cynicism.” By the song’s conclusion, he’s acquiesced to the notion that “You may not find all that you’re after / In the end, I hope it doesn’t matter.”
While some songs, like “Rapid Decompression,” feel passionate yet formulaic, others, like album closer “Bamboo Bones,” find the band branching out in new directions both lyrically and musically. The album ends with Gabel, his identity crisis seemingly resolved or at least dismissed, looking toward the future rather than the past, sounding almost hopeful as he repeats, “What God doesn’t give to you / You’ve got to go and get for yourself.”
Against Me! is on tour with Silversun Pickups. For Blast readers, they play Orlando at Hard Rock Cafe on June 15 and Brooklyn, at Williamsburg Waterfront on June 25.