Against Me!: White Crosses


RIYL: Fugazi, The Weakerthans, Anti-Flag, Needless Exclamation Points!

Against Me! was accused of selling out by many of their “fans” when word came out that they were leaving indie label Fat Wreck Chords for major label Sire. It was a stupid claim (more on that later), one that was deflated even more by the fact that New Wave, the band’s major label debut, was by far their best release to date. It was a blistering burst of band’s trademark semi-acoustic punk rock that some even claimed would be “The Next Big Thing.” And while that never came to pass, it was a damned good record that sold pretty well, which is probably the most a rock band can hope for nowadays.

Against_Me_01

Now there’s White Crosses. Old-school fans hoping for a return of the raw, acoustic punk of the band’s early work are going to be bummed. Newer fans hoping for another pack of well-written, tightly produced pop-friendly (but not pop-punk) rock songs to accompany the band’s 2007 masterpiece will be even more disappointed. White Crosses takes everything that was great about New Wave and pushes it too far. Against Me! really does sound too polished and too “mainstream” this time around. Any edge they had left on New Wave is way past long gone now. That in itself isn’t horrible, but even if these songs were stripped down to singer/guitarist Tom Gabel and an acoustic guitar, they still wouldn’t be very good. No hooks, no catchy melodies, and with rare exception there aren’t even any lyrics, always the band’s strong point, that stick around in your head moments after the first listen. What makes the band’s sudden descent into mediocrity even more frustrating is that the album starts out great. First with the killer title track and then with “I Was a Teenage Anarchist,” a perfect dis track against those who accused them of selling out in the past. Sadly, with White Crosses, those same fans don’t need to accuse Against Me! of selling out anymore, they can just (accurately) accuse them of being boring. And that’s even worse.

A quick afterward on what selling out actually is: Crafting a polished and tightly produced record isn’t selling out. Many times what people consider to be “raw” is really just bad production and amateur recording equipment; contrary to popular belief, most artists don’t want their albums to sound like shit. Signing to a major label isn’t selling out, either. The only difference between Sire Records and Fat Wreck Chords is that Sire is better at what they do. Given the chance, Fat Wreck would love to be rolling in dough just as much as the big guys. So what is selling out? How about releasing two versions of your album, a standard edition with a scant 10 tracks, and a “limited” edition that costs a few bucks more with four additional tracks. And then making that version a “deluxe” edition on iTunes by adding in an acoustic version of one of the tracks that’s “exclusive” (but not really, it’s on the single) to iTunes. There’s nothing that says Against Me! has to be against making money, but considering they’re built on a foundation of left-wing, anti-capitalist viewpoints, they should really know better than to pull crass crap like that. Next thing you know they’ll be doing horrible reunion concerts at corporate festivals, pretending like they still hate that machine they’re raging against. (Sire 2010)

Against Me! MySpace Page

  

Riverboat Gamblers Win Big With New Record

Riverboat Gamblers

From Volcom Entertainment comes the six-piece indie-rock outfit the Riverboat Gamblers.  Their fourth studio album Underneath The Owl hit stores last Tuesday and has been creating quite a buzz, thanks to their unique punk-inspired sound. 

Hailing from Austin, TX the Riverboat Gamblers bring the energetic spirit of the Lone Star State to rock ‘n roll with intense choruses and surprisingly heartfelt lyrics.  Their sound is the perfect mix of Rise Against and the Foo Fighters; just poppy enough to get stuck in your head, but sill hard enough to get your blood pumpin’.

            Their latest record is the perfect combination of infectious hooks and heavy guitars.  In a recent review Spin.com wrote:

It’s weird to think that these Texas upstarts are largely relegated to the fringes of pop — what they do is so basic, so elemental, it’s hard to even come up with a modifier to place in front of “rock.”

It’s true that the normal definition of “pop” is nowhere to be found on Owl but there is a definite influence that shines brightly through their punk/rock façade.  Snobsmusic.com described Riverboat Gamberls’ sound perfectly, saying:

Much like Against Me!, Riverboat Gamblers make fast paced punk with all the hooks you could ask for…and they manage to do it without a whiff of bubblegum. 

The music isn’t the only thing that has critics raving; the Riverboat Gamblers put on one hell of a show.  In fact, in this month’s issue of RollingStone David Fricke wrote:

If there was a Purple Heart for punk-rock performance, Mike Weibe of raging Texans the Riverboat Gamblers would have a chestful.  He’s a singer who always brings the show to you—surfing on hands, swinging from rafters and spinning around pillars—and he has the scars, abused muscles and mended bones to prove it.

Fricke goes on to rave about Owl’s “high-velocity bundles of sanded-fuzz guitars and bloodlust-rah-rah choruses.”  There’s really nothing negative to say about this band.  Their sound is polished, infectious, and straight-up rockin’.  They’re currently on a nationwide tour complete with a few opening shows for Super-Punk stars Rise Against and Rancid.  Check out Riverboat Gamblers’ MySpace for a complete list of tour dates and shows near you.

  

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