If their astoundingly good breakthrough album New Wave was called a sell out, then than was nothing compared to its follow-up, 2011’s White Crosses album. Singer Laura Jane Grace describes the backlash brilliantly in the autobiography Tranny: Confessions Of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout.
It was the band’s last album before their seminal, momentous, once-in-a-generation masterpiece Transgender Dysphoria Blues. In the band’s catalogue it has a really distinctive style. I mean, no two Against Me! albums sound much alike anyway, but even taking that into account, this is even more different yet again. Its unarguably their most commercial release to date. Its unarguably their cleanest album to date. It is their most radio friendly effort to date. Its kind of a grower in places. But don’t ever let anyone tell you that it isn’t fantastic.
One of the best songs I think I’ve ever heard by any artist comes from this record (‘Because Of The Shame’ …a really touching and emotional songs in the band’s already weighty cannon, describing coming back to town for the funeral of someone you slept with, and all the difficult emotions seeing them and their family). As well as being interesting lyrically however; it is outrageously catchy and memorable musically. It has that same mega-anthemic feel as someone like The Foo Fighter’s biggest songs but with so much more oomph and edge.
Not that the album is a one trick pony either. Single ‘I Was A Teenage Anarchist’ is a real ballsy ode to the bands oh-so-punk past, and how they aren’t that band anymore much to the chagrin of the punker-than-thou original fans. Lines like ‘’I was a teenage Anarchist but the politics were too convenient’’ and ‘’the revolution was a lie’’ are so refreshing to hear in music’s don’t-you-dare-sell-out culture. Once again, I’m talking a bit too much about the lyrics, but it is one real bad ass rock song that you can hum all day long and gets stuck in your head for days. The fun surf-rock tone of the guitar solo and the breathy opening non-lyrical ‘ah ha ha ah ah, ha haha’ noises are real highlights.
Its not all anthemic rockers either, there’s the harmonica and acoustic guitar woozy vibes of ‘Bob Dylan Dream’ (a song about exactly what you think its about) that to me is as infinitely sing-able as something like Country Roads or Dirty Old Town are to the drunken masses. ‘Ache With Me’ is similarly quiet but more contemplative and sad sounding.
The rhythmic ‘Bamboo Bones’ is so bouncy and fun, with excellent drumming and a bigger chorus than any of the genre’s biggest bands. When the singer lets out the wounded bellow of ‘’What God doesn’t give to you, you’ve got to go and get for yourself’’ you can hear so many different shades of emotion I want to give it some kind of award. How the hell this song isn’t a global mega hit like Queen’s ‘Somebody To Love’ I’ll never know.
Its pointless sitting here pointing out highlights, because every song is great. Rapid Decompression and One By One and Bitter Divisions are all melodic but up tempos rockers that would all be the best song on a lesser band’s album. Suffocation, Spanish Moss and Lehigh Acres are all catchy as hell with interesting lyrics. The only song I didn’t love right away was the title track, but that’s grown on me a lot over time too.
Overall; a superb album, as chocked full of memorable moments as an average band’s greatest hits collection. Its their least punk and their most commercial release. But as long as the songs are this catchy, then who the hell cares? (Well, the punker than thou crowd cared, as we discussed above, but for everyone else, just lay back and let the good tunes wash over you).