CD Review: Against Me - White Crosses
*** out of *****
New Wave, the previous album from Against Me!, toned down the group’s rough punk edges and displayed its rock side. The band even received more attention from mainstream media. But loyal fans were not disappointed, because the folk-punk fury still prevailed through Tom Gabel’s lyrics.
The band continues with the same energy and passion it had with New Wave on its fifth album, White Crosses. The album, which is the group’s second major-label release, is immediately recognizable as an Against Me! album. Fans will find nothing surprising on the record. The only difference with White Crosses is the addition of George Rebelo, who replaced previous drummer Warren Oakes last year.
Although White Crosses sounds very similar to New Wave, it is clear that the band is maturing and refining itself through the lyrics.
At first listen, the album sounds moderately repetitive, with typical punk power chords. But the lack of diversity on the album is not a complete disappointment. The lyrics of each song contain a passion-filled, unique story. The general theme of the tracks is the significance of past sentiment and its effect on the present.
The first two tracks set the scene for the rest of the album. On “White Crosses,” Gabel’s powerful, coarse voice rolls over intense chords. His lyrics demonstrate the anger and isolation felt toward society. “White crosses on the church lawn / I want to smash them all.” The white crosses resemble a church’s anti-abortion movement. Similar to “Crosses,” the next track, “I Was a Teenage Anarchist,” describes the transition from inspiration to cynicism as one’s convictions change over time.
“High Pressure Low” is immediately catchy, with upbeat chords but lyrics worried about living in such an uncertain, chaotic world. The catchiness continues with “Spanish Moss,” the most instrumentally conventional track on the album. What makes this song unique is the undertone of hope set against the ever-looming dark reality. “Let your mind conjure up old ghosts / Ride your bike through lost Florida streets / Everything we’ve said and done, can be so easily forgotten / You can always change who you are.”
In the middle of the album is “Rapid Decompression,” bringing back the edgy, raw sound of Against Me!’s good old days. The track has no chorus, and with crunchy guitar and anthem-sounding wails from backup vocals, it’s a welcome reminder of the band’s past.
Both loyal fans and new listeners will find something to enjoy on the album. While quite similar to New Wave, White Crosses combines the band’s past with a more mature sound. The lyrics show Gabel’s growth through the reflection on his youth. There is a clear change in perception as he sings about broken relationships, death, and fear. The tracks showcase the dark side of a situation, but with a subtle glimpse of hope for the future.
Overall, White Crosses is just what you would expect from Against Me!’s fifth album; leftist politics, angst, and passion.
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