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Music Reviews

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

Rating: 9.2/10 ?

August 2, 2007
"Protest songs in response to military aggression/ Protest songs trying to stop the soldier's gun," Tom Gabel militantly, aggressively protests on New Wave, the breakthrough album for Gabel and his bandmates in Against Me!. That line is pulled from from "White People for Peace," Against Me!'s new signature tune, a bellowing march that sums up the band's aesthetic better than even self-aware punk singers should know. What's nice is that unlike most current sloggers on the Warped Tour/Bamboozle circuit, they even have an aesthetic at all. Three albums ago, the Floridians might as well have been billed as For Against or Rise Against. Now they're Rage Against the Machine, another fortunate unit who existed only in the popular domain at the forefront of their creative powers.

As its title suggests, New Wave finds Against Me! in chrysalis, preoccupied with change. "Stop! Take some time to think/ figure out what's important to you," is a cautionary disco-rap augmented by the hope of the title tune: "Come on and wash these shores away/ I am looking for the crest/ Looking for the crest of a new wave." Where a song like "How Low," from 2005's painfully wordy Searching for a Former Clarity, became mired in its own endless cycle of addiction, New Wave finds distinct power in the ability to change, a nice way for a quartet of well-meaning anarchists to shoot back at a "stay the course" president. Throughout the album change isn't always good (the summer breakup "Borne on the FM Waves of the Heart") or even apparent (celebrating a party girl's stubbornness in "Thrash Unreal"), but it's never hopeless. And the band takes a tongue-in-cheek swing at themselves on "Piss and Vinegar," which begins critical of a band with "videos on TV" and "publicity photos in the magazine" and goes on to chide them for not getting up close and personal. Are they preempting sour fan reactions to their major label signing? I'm pretty confident Gabel's not talking about himself when he challenges bands that don't "say what [they're] really thinking." He's never been one to shy away.

And speaking of sellouts, I love when bands become relevant and popular at the same time; shouldn't you? Like the White Stripes gearing up to record White Blood Cells, Against Me! have stripped themselves down to the most basic and pleasurable elements of their sound, with the legendary Butch Vig (who has helmed classic sessions for the likes of Nirvana and Garbage) at the soundboard mixing the hooks even higher: ba-ba-ba chorus, industrial-disco beat, male-female duet. Gabel's voice has improved mightily, too, to particularly well-compressed harmonic effect on the sizzling opener that shares the album's title. Like Miranda Lambert's whole album making good on Carrie Underwood's nuclear "Before He Cheats" last year, New Wave fulfills another band's promise, namely My Chemical Romance's entertaining Freddie Mercury caricature, "Teenagers." Gabel's new songs take on that quality, perfect pop crammed into ripped-velcro tune-riffs that shout and fit in arrestingly ugly three-minute clumps. I can't remember the last time a popular punk album sounded this simple, lean and ready to conquer anything in its path. And there's a lot in its path.

Reviewed by Dan Weiss
Dan Weiss is the music editor for LAS. Formerly an editorial intern at CMJ and creator of the now defunct What was It Anyway?, his work has appeared in Village Voice, Pitchfork, Philadelphia Inquirer, Stylus and Crawdaddy among others. He resides in Brooklyn where he enjoys questionable lifestyle choices and loud guitars.

See other reviews by Dan Weiss



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