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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Against Me!
White Crosses
Sire

Rating: 9.4/10 ?


June 3, 2010
Most pop-punkers were teenage anarchists wanting to smash white crosses on the church lawn. Even if they're older now, the sentiments have remained the same, and this, they argue, is what makes their music important, not to mention accessible for minors in need of a healthy outlet for their pubescent angst. Those unfamiliar with Against Me!'s unexpectedly rapid rise in quality and complexity since their major label output might be expecting more of the same, but White Crosses is no retread. Rather, it's an even more focused, equally compelling follow-up to 2007's arena-punk juggernaut New Wave. Maybe even better.

This album's brilliance comes from the titanium-larynxed Tom Gabel's juxtaposition of the listener's jaded expectations of punk with too-direct-to-be-dishonest sentiments. Even track titles are telling. "Suffocation," right before "We're Breaking Up," scans as a personal struggle, with a simple, forthright refrain of "Suffocation! Modern life in the Western world!" knocking a listener ready to bitch about yet another breakup album a few feet backwards.

Nobody here is trying to suppress their punk upbringing, instead using it as a solid foundation for more interesting, relatable themes, and Gabel certainly utilizes the intelligence and vocabulary he's picked up since his youth. "Because of the Shame," a track about the premature death of a lover, redefines sincerity. Gabel's startling admissions on general emotions ("Because of the shame I associate with vulnerability/I am numbing myself completely") are so vivid and plainspoken that by the final cry of "With your name tattooed into my skin," you might accidentally check your own arm to learn her name.

With a weaker vocal presence out front, all of this could have been lost, or never conceived in the first place. But Gabel's distinct, powerful barking, more than ever showcasing his underappreciated enunciation abilities, is the band's secret. It's so good, so forceful, it even detracts from the music, which is less varied in tempo than on New Wave, but reaches higher vertically, piling up on harmonies and flourishes with nary a dull moment en route to the culminating, riveting "Bamboo Bones."

By the time Gabel reaches his final, triple-tracked refrain of "What God doesn't give to you/You've got to go and get for yourself," even his atheist and anarchist fans are ready to unite behind him. With barely a single genre-transcending gimmick, that's how Against Me! has created what has yet to be challenged as the year's most complete and thought-provoking rock album.

Reviewed by JJ Lang


See other reviews by JJ Lang

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