Album Yeah, I Like the New Against Me Record. Wanna Fight? (Or: A Very Lengthy Look at New Wave)
posted by July 10 at 11:07 AMon
This is it, this is the new Against Me album. It’s called New Wave, and I agree with you—the artwork is terrible. But let’s get to the meat of the issue. New Wave was written by a band who once toured basements and DIY spaces and played songs about being anarchists. (And they still play those songs.) This is a band who once locked Taking Back Sunday in their own dressing room at a music festival, a band who’s been very vocal about their morals and political beliefs, and a band who laughed at the major labels working hard to court them despite the fact that the band had no intentions of ever signing. They were just a group of punks who wanted the free tickets to baseball games and expensive dinners. (Put their DVD We’re Never Going Home on your Netflix queue if you’ve never seen it.)
But that was then. New Wave is now. The record (in stores today) is evidence that people grow up, bands evolve, and priorities change. This “new” Against Me eventually caved to the major label’s offers instead of mocking the suits to their faces. They outgrew the basement, they no longer had the time to screenprint their own t-shirts, and I heard that Taking Back Sunday eventually got over the whole “being locked in a room a few minutes to showtime” thing. They’re not the same band who recorded Reinventing Axl Rose, and we can’t expect them to be. That’s the bitch about evolution—everything changes, everyone changes, and what you said when you were 18 isn’t necessarily what you’ll be saying when you’re 28. It’s true for me, it’s true for Against Me.
We can’t hold them to standards we can’t hold ourselves to. You want another Reinventing Axl Rose? Then just go listen to Reinventing Axl Rose. I said a lot of shit when I was a kid that I wouldn’t say now—lessons have been learned, life has been lived, we all grow up. I no longer want to make out with Ralph Macchio and New Kids on the Block aren’t the best band in the world anymore. Against Me said they’d never sign to a major, but they ended up signing to a major. Aren’t they allowed to change their minds?
That doesn’t mean you should forget the past and like New Wave on principle. I completely understand if you don’t. What I don’t understand, though, is not giving the album a chance. And as a number of my “punk as fuck” music snob friends prove (along with dozens and dozens of discussions in music forums across the nation), there are people out there refusing to give it a chance.
With that said, let’s take a real look at New Wave. (I told you this was going to be lengthy.)
The opening song, the title track, prepares the listener for the “New Wave” they're about to ride—it proves that the album you’re about to experience is everything you probably aren’t expecting to experience, but that's okay, because it's time for things to change anyway.
We can be the bands we want to hear. We can define our own generation. Is there anybody on the receiving end? Are you ready to brave new directions.
Come on and wash these shores away.
Come on and wash these shores away.
I am looking for the crest,
I am looking for the crest of a new wave.
Let breathe new dawn this art is dead!
No signs of original thought in the mainstream.
Is there anybody on the receiving end?
We can eclipse all that came before us.
It’s bright and fresh sounding, a sound Against Me has slowly evolved into, but it's still rock and roll. And it's still got Tom Gabel's gruff and the band's raucous back up vocals. It still sounds like Against Me.
The next song "Up the Cuts," is where I have my first (and only major) issue. It's about the derivative nature of the music industry, and there’s the line where Gabel sings “All the taste makers drinking from the same glass/Is there anyone thinking what I am?/Are you restless like me?/All the insiders rumor over the decline in sales./All the buzz is happening in the new digital market place./FBI warning printed on the flipside./Under penalty of law piracy will be prosecuted.”
And uh... you’re on a major label, dude. Do you really get to whine about the “tastemakers” killing the creativity and availability? Yeah, no. You don’t. Good song, but it's strange to hear it on the band's major label debut. If that's how you feel, why didn't you, you know, stick with Fat Wreck Chords? Anyway...
"Thrash Unreal" is an amazingly catchy song about a washed up and strung out scenester. In the beginning it's all about a steady drum beat and the subtle whine of a guitar. Then it builds to a chorus of "Ba ba ba ba ba bada ba!'s and it's really, really great. The lyrics are a little hokey and anti-drug campaign-ish at times ("No mother ever dreams that her daughter's gonna grow up to be a junkie!”), but it’s forgivable. Also, I love the way he says "Baby" at the 2:52 mark. I can't explain why.
"White People for Peace" and "Americans Abroad" hark back to the band's political roots, and "Borne on the FM Waves," a sad ballad sung with one of the ladies from Tegan and Sarah (I forget which one), was dumb at first but has eventually grown on me. “Piss & Vinegar” begs for the truth (“Say what you’re thinking!”) and the truth is I can do without "Ocean." It’s sorta a bummer way to end the record, if you ask me.
What is perhaps most exciting about New Wave is the promise of a really fantastic live show. The songs are anthemic, fast, and fun--assuming the band's on point (which they usually are), then their Block Party performance should be fucking amazing. I can't wait.
The moral: If you've hung in there with AM! after Reinventing Axl Rose, you'll probably find things you like this time around too, so don't discount it just because it's a major release, okay? It's pointless. Dear You was a major release too, and we all know how I feel about that record. Hating a band just because they singed to a major label is so 1998 anyway.
Next up, the new Pumpkins record, which I still haven’t heard since Zwickel’s been hogging it. But I expect to roll my eyes a lot at first, because I’ve just about had it up to here (my hand is planted high above my head as I say that) with Billy Corgan’s unnecessary guitar wankery. But we'll see.