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Against Me! performs punk sound

BY RILEY UBBEN | FEBRUARY 10, 2011 7:10 AM

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mp3 sample: Against Me!

"High Pressure Low"

The punk-rock veterans of Against Me are known for addressing the state of their band in their albums, so the group’s titling a song “We’re Breaking Up” may not seem like a good sign.

Despite all the change, lead vocalist Tom Gabel insists the band will not go away soon.

The group will take the stage at 6 p.m. today at the Blue Moose Tap House, 211 Iowa Ave., as part of its first tour since parting ways with its former label, Sire Records. Admission is $15.

The band, from Gainesville, Fla., started gaining fame with its politically charged début, Against Me is Reinventing Axl Rose, which showcased its rough folk-meets-punk sound. After releasing two more albums through indie label Fat Wreck Chords, the band made the decision to move to Sire Records, which is owned by industry behemoth Warner Music.

While the jump to a major label produced a significant amount of backlash from the punk community, it gave the band some big opportunities, such as working with legendary producer Butch Vig on its next two records.

“In a word, it was incredible,” Gabel said. “It’s the closest I’ll ever come to going to college. I’ll be able to use what I learned making those two albums for the rest of my life.”

Much like what Vig’s work on Nevermind did for Nirvana, the producer’s magic touch on New Wave helped Against Me clean up its sound with big melodies and memorable guitar hooks that helped the band appeal to a broader audience with its major-label début.

White Crosses, the band’s latest effort, shows Gabel and Company pushing the influences even further, which he cites as Tom Petty, David Bowie, and of course, the Clash.

“We definitely wanted to make a big-sounding album,” Gabel said.

While the band’s sound has progressed drastically over the years, so has each member’s political views, an area that is always under intense scrutiny for a punk band. Much to the dismay of die-hard punk purists, this is not the same band that proclaimed “Baby, I’m an Anarchist” in 2002. The first single from White Crosses, “I Was a Teenage Anarchist,” is a bittersweet anthem that sees Gabel reminiscing about his rebellious past with a new perspective.

“The message is to beware of organized groups of people, whether that’s the church, the state, or revolutionaries,” he said. “Think for yourself; be an individual.”

University of Iowa junior Jake Hansen said that while the band’s sound has changed, he thinks the political spirit of the group remains intact. He became a fan of Against Me after hearing the song “Sink, Florida, Sink” for the first time.

“The lyrics really spoke to me as far as the attitude,” he said.

Even with many changes going on with the band, fans such as Hansen can expect what Against Me has always delivered.

“Four sweaty guys standing on a stage,” Gabel said. “Screaming their lungs out, giving it their all.”


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