by WestCoast Weasel WestCoast Weasel
June 14, 2010

Well, this day finally had to come; it’s a day I’ve been avoiding for a couple of reasons.  When music is the most important thing to you and your task is to either build up or tear down an all-time favorite band, it’s a little unnerving when it ends up being the latter.  Anyone who hasn’t heard White Crosses (which had one of the most premature leaks in music history) is either living underneath a rock or simply doesn’t care.  If it’s the former, well, I’d love to tell you what you’ve been missing.  I really would.

Now before the confused, blindsided and self-proclaimed “open minded” fans assume I’m another disgruntled Reinventing Axl Rose-era crab—that’s not so much the case.  Granted, it’s likely my favorite Against Me! offering but I fell in love with the band after 2007’s New Wave.  I am, however, overtly familiar and passionate about everything they achieved prior.  While it’s been only three years, they likely hold the title for the band I’ve listened to the most…ever.

The title track’s lyrics, “I wake up in the morning with the same unanswered questions / I don’t know what’s going to cure my unsettled stomach,” are oddly what runs through my mind everyday.  Tom’s distaste lies in the hands of religious fundamentalists and their warped sense of appropriate homage to aborted fetuses (as opposed to my food intolerance).  I personally find them both disgusting.  Unfortunately, in what is one of the album’s strongest cuts, a little bit of balls do sneak out as he makes his attack, but only ever so briefly.

“I Was a Teenage Anarchist” follows, addressing his not-so recent growth from a budding young revolutionary to an arena rock try-hard.  For a guy who refused to acknowledge his anarchist past (which he shouldn’t have to) for years, he sure screws the pooch on this ill-fated, too little, too late gem.  “Narrowed visions of autonomy / They wanted me to surrender my identity” are possibly some of the strongest, most reasonable lyrics—but the rest fall short.  The catchy pop tune was clearly written for those who didn’t get the anarchist thing to begin with and surely never will.  You grew up and changed?  Perfect.  I’m not an anarchist either.  However, “Do you remember when you were young and wanted to set the world on fire? / The revolution was a lie” is a hypocritical , offensive slap in the face to both the thousands of kids who brought him up and made him who he is (and likely vice versa) and to what he once stood for.  This “farce revolution” made Tom Gabel—and more importantly—Against Me!

Just as the album turns left, down an over-produced syrup-glazed road—thanks to Butch Vig and the band’s Bon Jovi-like aspirations—we are given one amazing, well-crafted pop-rock song.  It does make a fan proud of their strides as musicians, even if it’s worlds apart different from anything they’ve ever done.  “Because of the Shame” incorporates delicate piano, spot-on harmonies, a healthy blend of electric and acoustic guitars alike behind Misfits “woahs” and personal, well written lyrics (a White Crosses rarity).  It leaves a guy wanting to hit repeat and avoid the rest of the album.  And mostly for good reason.

If there’s one fluid theme on this album it’s the questionably weak choruses.  “Suffocation,” “Ache with Me,” “High Pressure Low,” and “Rapid Decompression” all suffer from this syndrome.  You can be catchy and aim for superstardom all you want but you’re not going to get there with generics.  You almost got there with balls but now you’re lacking might in both lyrics and music.  When I interviewed Andrew, I asked (and hoped) if we’d hear the return of acoustic guitars (like some of their best, classic songs); I should have been careful what I wished for.  Instead of folky, singer-songwriter styled surprises, they just replaced one electric guitar on nearly every song with an acoustic.  Sorry, not what I was going for there.  Now they fit on any commercial radio station imaginable.  Out of the aforementioned bunch, “Rapid” is the exception as far as having a hard edge.  Hard edged or not, it’s certainly not a sharp one.  It’s bland, dull, and—to my dismay—the “rocker” ends up being one of the worst songs on the album.  What’s going on here?

“Spanish Moss” and moreover “High Pressure Low” aren’t horrible, (though simply mid-tempo rock tunes) but they’d be easier to swallow without the Vig machine pumping “aye yaye yayes” and more “woahs” (don’t even get me started on the “chica chicah’s” heard on “Ache with Me.”)  The latter tune showcases Tom’s voice beyond hard rock which could be admirable if the tune didn’t sound like something Green Day is currently auto-tuning.  Again the verse is tolerable but once that hit-making gleam appears in the eye of the chorus, all I can do is laugh.  Or cry.

At least when they got their feet wet with a big budget, a world famous producer and Vig’s varnish on New Wave, they still rocked.  Hats off to a slick, catchy rock record with punk rock influence (both lyrically and musically).  But it looks like that was it.  Call it their “segue” into a mediocre craft that further alienates those who loved them and nothing ground-breaking for those who don’t.

The final song at the end of this “what the hell happened to these guys?” journey, “Bambo Bones,” was initially equally as annoying early on, but it has grown to be one of my favored tracks.  It’s certainly anthemic and important, yet with their modern day optimism as opposed to angst.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.  But… Against… what?

…Weasel Was Here

out of 5 weasels.

Choice cuts: “White Crosses”, “Because of The Shame” “Bambo Bones”

  1. White Crosses
  2. I Was a Teenage Anarchist
  3. Because of the Shame
  4. Suffocation
  5. We’re Breaking Up
  6. High Pressure Low
  7. Ache with Me
  8. Spanish Moss
  9. Rapid Decompression
  10. Bamboo Bones

Visit Against Me! online:

“I Was A Teenage Anarchist” music video

“Rapid Decompression” music video

Never trust a weasel. Support the artist and find out for yourself. encourages purchasing White Crosses locally at Red Cat Records in Vancouver, B.C, any independent record store of your choice or online here.


One Response to “Turncoat Turntable 034: Against Me! – White Crosses”

  1. roxrolz roxrolz says:

    Pretty much a bang on review

Write a Comment