Friday, September 07, 2007


Songwriter Tom Grabel is the closest thing punk rock will get to a superhero.
The frontman of the politically charged band Against Me! is standing on the stage of the newly opened Music Hall of Williamsburg alternating between near-maniacal glee and throat-torturing screams. His black uniform--T-shirt and skinny jeans--are soaked through with sweat, clinging to his thin body proof of his impassioned fervor. Right now, he's strumming his guitar and belting out the lyrics to the crowd favorite "Baby, I'm An Anarchist."

"'Cause baby, I'm an anarchist. You're a spineless liberal," Grabel's raspy voice projects over the fans who are singing along to every word. "We marched together for the eight-hour day, and held hands in the streets of Seattle. But when it came time to throw bricks through that Starbucks window, you left me all alone."

This song is a particularly confusing one in the AM!'s catalog. It's unclear as to whether Grabel is actually mocking the anarchy movement or simply relaying an anarchist's love story. If its the former, then watching a roomful of punks sing along to the meta-critical words is borderline genius. But if that's not the case, then the song is quite problematic.

Last year, Against Me! signed to the major label Sire, a subsidiary of Warner Music Group. Only a year before that they released the song "Unprotected Sex With Multiple Partners" about the evils of major labels. Grabel musters up his best imitation of an A&R guy coercing his band to sign the dotted line, "
The kids just wouldn't understand it. Come on now, how long do think this is really gonna last?"

But whether you see this as a contradiction--and let's be honest, it is--Against Me! has, nevertheless, retained their philosophical complexities even while working within the system. It's uncanny. Citing the evils of the major labels and then using their mismanaged money to spread said message. Incorporate unlikely lyrics like "Condolezza" and "protest songs in response to military aggression" within the choruses and still make them sound like hits. Not many bands have pulled it off. Not many bands focused on all that is wrong in modern day America while attempting to sell large number of records to those very Americans.

Against Me! may be the first band to matter since the Clash and despite the blatant commercialism and the inevitable backlash associated with it, their latest record New Wave is one of the year's best records, if not one of the more inspiring records of the last decade. Ten songs clocking in at raw thirty-three minutes, the Gainesville, FL. foursome produces a thrilling half-hour rush of unabashed punk refreshingly bereft of all the self-involved insularity that plagues the genre. AM! sings like they want to make this world a better, albeit, a less confusing place. And unlike many bands out there whining about broken hearts, they actually sound like they could.


Blogger Adam S. said...

"Against Me! may be the first band to matter since the Clash..."

Whoa whoa whoa. I think this claim needs a lot more backing up.

4:17 PM  

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