“All the punks still singing the same song” & Other Observations From The Self-Proclaimed “New Wave”

Against Me!
New Wave
Released 7.10.07

Rating: 3 out of 10

“Let breathe new dawn this art is dead!
No signs of original thought in the mainstream.”

There was a point in time, years ago, when bands claiming to be punk rock actually were. Against Me! is astounding, not because of how UN-punk rock they really are, but because of how unbelievably high they place themselves on their own pedestal. And, honestly, as much as they’d like to think otherwise, they’re exactly the type of band they lambaste in “Piss and Vinegar:”

”I would be lying to you if I did not say something/
That would make me feel like a politician/
A middle of the road opinion that no one finds offensive or challenging.”

Forging their sounds from elements of pop punk and folk, Against Me! takes it upon themselves to right the wrongs of the mainstream, acting as purveyors of a spirit long lost in the mire of Green Day and A.F.I. and revivalists of a sentiment of a “protest” persuasion. They do this through the appropriation of Bad Religion riffs while trying to convince listeners that there’s a change coming and that it all begins with New Wave. And, if that’s true, it’s not just punk that’s dead: It’s music all together.

Beginning of course with the intended hope of the title track (”I am looking for the crest/I am looking for the crest of a new wave”), the album’s second track, “Up The Cuts,” is almost three minutes worth of brooding on the current state of music that does nothing other than sound like the current state of music. I mean, isn’t this what Yellowcard does? If not, then “Thrash Unreal,” definitely fits them into that mold.

“White People For Peace,” paints a portrait of war in terms of God and the singing of protest songs whose ultimate goal is to stop the fighting. The racial implication of the song’s title is not explained, unless the band is talking about themselves. If that’s the case, why bring race into it? It almost seems like a gratuitous attempt to add provocation where there really is none.

“Stop,” a repetitive disco-rhythmic piece of self-importance, wants you to believe that they’re the anti-rock star rock band: ”All of our lives dedicated to shoving it right back in their fucking face.” Yeah, you told ‘em. I almost wonder if these guys have ever HEARD a punk record that dated farther back than 1994 because, if they HAD, they’d possibly be embarrassed.

Only five tracks in, the band’s over abundance of statements against mainstream music only serves to put across exactly how scared they are of being sat amongst them. The inclusion of Tegan Quin, from chick-folk band, Tegan & Sara, for the song “Borne On The FM Waves,” seems like an attempt to look underground in order to evade being lumped into their most-hated MTV dogpile. “Piss And Vinegar,” the lyrics of which I’ve already transcribed above, amusingly adds to their struggle for integrity.

“American Abroad” at least throws a little rock-a-billy into the mix and then “Animal,” the album’s slow-rocker, bolsters up the songwriting quality an iota. The closer, “Ocean,” features a take on a Bob Marley riff and then has singer, Tom Gable, pulling a Maynard James Keenan for the finale and sounding more desperate than passionate.

The one thing New Wave has going for it, is that it’s only a little more than 30 minutes long. Otherwise, Against Me! has created a 10-song miss that almost breaks its own arm patting itself on its undeserving back. It also misleads the music-buying public, namely the kids, into believing that THIS is what it’s all about. If we hadn’t seen the demise of punk rock before, we’re definitely seeing it now and, what makes it worse, is that it’s at the hands of a band that quite possibly believes it’s bringing it back to life.

To quote the band, I would be lying to you if I did not say something.

Letters From A Tapehead


Anonymous said…
The guy who wrote this obviously doesnt know anything about Against Me! or punk music.
Sean Caldwell said…
To Anonymous:

The guy who wrote this comment obviously reads SPIN Magazine. Your favorite band somehow managed to qualify as their pick for 2007's best album. Congratulations and thanks for reading.

Letters From A Tapehead
NicoleR said…
Hey you, anonymous, by saying that the person who wrote this blog knows nothing about punk, you have in turn become the same uneducated person that you are kind of hinting that the person who wrote this blog is. Since when has there been the right kind of punk? Just because a band changes their style doesn't make them shit. It's when a band looses everything that they initially stood for that makes it difficult to watch or listen to. I whole heartedly agree with this blog. Yet, like how some people wholeheartedly believe that greenday is punk and that they'll change the world, the same people probably believe this about against me!, they believe what was sold to them. I'm from Gainesville Florida, And I have seen Against me! four times. I'm upset with them as a band because they've lost all sense of originality that used to envelop them, and the fact that they signed to sire doesn't help much either. Yeah, whenever someone says that someone "doesn't know anything" in any circumstance, that makes me think that they also know nothing. Amen, letters from a tapehead, even though you probably don't agree with half of what I said, I agree with your review.
Sean Caldwell said…
To NicoleR:

I know I'm getting back to you late, but thanks for the back-up. I do actually agree with a lot of what you said and I appreciate where you're coming from.

My biggest problem with this band, or their record, isn't so much that they "changed" their style or moved themselves to a mainstream label. My issue with them rests solely on the ease with which they sell themselves as an authentic incarnation of something that couldn't be further off the mark. They stand firmly on the shoulders of giants, bands that essentially starved their way across the country for music and had much more in terms of the spirit that Against Me! claims to behold. Next to the likes of Black Flag, Minor Threat, DK, Bad Brains, Articles Of Faith, DRI...etc., New Wave amounts to a one-time media favorite.

Thanks for reading.

Letters From A Tapehead

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