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.


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


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