Against Me! | White Crosses (Sire Records)

One of Gainesville’s best known punk bands is all grown up.

Against Me! has been bringing their unique brand of punk rock to the masses since 1997. Since then, the band has seen a number of line-up changes and several record labels. Started by Tom Gabel and featuring only his vocals and an acoustic guitar, AM! found it hard to break into the scene without first enduring some jeers. Eventually, thanks to the addition of band members, a fuller sound and plenty of hard work, those jeers turned to cheers and the band embarked on sold-out, world wide tours.

 Their catalogue has varied, musically and lyrically maturing over the years, much to the chagrin of some fans and the delight of others. 2010 saw the release of their fifth studio album, White Crosses, and in my opinion, one of their best to date.

The first and title track, “White Crosses,” immediately introduces us to the band’s latest edition: drummer George Rebelo, probably most recognized as a member of Gainesville’s Hot Water Music (Rebelo has since left to work on a HWM reunion and was replaced by Jay Weinberg; that’s right – Weinberg, as in son of The E Street Band’s Max Weinberg). Tempo wise, it’s one of the more upbeat tracks and in typical Against Me! fashion, the lyrics are full of biting social commentary and self-deprecation. As for sound, there is a noticeable change in pace due to Rebelo’s signature style and it continues throughout the rest of the album.

Up next is “I was a Teenage Anarchist,” the first single and one of Gabel’s more self-aware lyrical compositions. The song is obviously addressing criticisms that claim Against Me! has given up on their original ideals. It ends with Gabel reflecting: “I was a teenage anarchist, but then the scene got too rigid/it was a mob mentality, they set their rifle sights on me/narrow visions of autonomy, you want me to surrender my identity/I was a teenage anarchist, the revolution was a lie” and then firing back with: “do you remember when you were young and you wanted to set the world on fire?” More or less, he’s calling those critics out by forcing them to assess their own states of mind – are you really so wrapped up in the past that you can’t admit that your priorities have changed in the last 14 years? (And might I add a personal thanks to Tom for that one because I feel like I’m constantly asking acquaintances that question.) If you listen to nothing else on White Crosses, listen to this.

I guess I don’t have time to go into detail about everything but there are handfuls of gems in the eight songs that follow. Things slow down a bit and take on a more serious tone with “Because of the Shame,” “We’re Breaking Up,” and “Ache With Me,” while “Spanish Moss” reminds us that we all need time to breath: “you just need to find someplace to get away/You can forget your name/And there’s no need to apologize.”

Now, I know I said that “Teenage Anarchist” was what you should listen to, if anything, but I forgot about “Bamboo Bones.” This is the one. As we’ve seen before within the bands’ catalogue, this final track is a slower number but this one leaves us on a more uplifting, life-affirming note than previously found on …As the Eternal Cowboy (a song about leaving a lover) or Searching for a Former Clarity (a song about dying). Beginning with “Don’t let them break you, don’t let them tell you who you are” and ending with “what god doesn’t give to you, you’ve got to go and get for yourself,” this number in particular showcases these guys’ maturation and transcendence into not only a great punk band but a group of viable and respectable songwriters.

At the end of the day, this may not be the kind of Against Me! release you’re expecting but if this is a sign of things to come, I say keep it up. A+ | Nicole Madden

Against Me! continues their relentless touring with a stint opening for working class heroes, Dropkick Murphys, beginning in late February. The show comes to The Pageant in St. Louis on Saturday, March 5. Hopefully, you’ve got your tickets; it sold out fast.

RIYL: Bruce Springsteen, rock’n’roll, stuff that doesn’t suck, The Gaslight Anthem

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