I think the key thing is to see White Crosses for what it is. Nobody's standing atop Mount Punk, pointing a bony, tattooed finger at their fallen prophets. Yawn... Everyone's over the shock turn of events and personally, I was just interested to see what Tom Gabel and his Gainesville brethren (minus drummer Warren Oakes) had to offer this time around.
White Crosses starts off strong. The first three tracks, "White Crosses," "I Was A Teenage Anarchist" and "Because of the Shame," are all perfect combinations of Tom Gabel's heart-wrenching presence, his rousing, punk rock opinions, James Bowman's goosebump backups and Against Me!'s slick new Butch Vig production. Particularly "Because of the Shame" - it's easy on the ears but still crammed with that signature Against Me! feeling.
"I Was A Teenage Anarchist" even addresses Gabel's accusers with tongue-in-cheek, fuck-you-guys-then lyrics like "I was a teenage anarchist but then the scene got too rigid. It was a mob mentality, they set their rifle sights on me."
The song goes on to explain Gabel's side of the story, how he was this revolutionary, teenage anarchist punk rocker that wanted to set the world on fire. But then he grew up and got over it. He wanted the rest of the world to hear his songs - not just guys with beards and flannel shirts. In short, he wanted to shrug off the past and move on. But the fans wouldn't let him. I mean, you can hardly blame them. It's like Ronald McDonald becoming a vegan overnight. But whatever, all power to him.
The thing is, after "Because of the Shame" (which to me, sounds as good as anything Against Me! has ever done), White Crosses slips into the background and never really recovers. Not until the last minute of final track "Bamboo Bones." The more you listen, the more you pick up. And "We're Breaking Up" is a definite grower. But the rest of the album just never grabs you the same as the opening three tracks.
The other day I was listening to Nirvana's 1991 breakthrough album Nevermind and it's that same, Slick Rick, Butch Vig production - the dude's 54 and the last album he produced was Green Day's 21st Century Breakdown. Then again, that's why bands go to Butch Vig (his latest projects include the new Foo Fighers album and MUSE's new single "Neutron Star Collision (Love Is Forever)," recorded for the Twilight:
So there you have it. Nobody's crying "Sell out" or anything lame like that. There's nothing wrong with branching out, growing up and trying to get your band out there. Trying to be successful - punk rock doesn't include a gold watch and a nice retirement package. And like I said, the first three tracks are a perfect blend of old, abrasive, opinionated, goosebump Against Me! and the band's more sterile and "normal" new sound. But to be honest, the second half of the album's just average. It's middle of the road. Boring... Let's just say it's not something you're going to play 'til the CD's skipping. Pity...
Order White Crosses from Amazon.com
Against Me! on MySpace