Against Me! - White Crosses (Sire, 2010)
White Crosses, the newest album from Gainesville punk experimentalists Against Me!, continues the evolution of their sound that began with 2005's Searching For A Former Clarity (in which the band exchange their acoustic-based folk-punk for a more traditional punk sound) and continued with 2007's New Wave (in which they exchanged the punk for Former Clarity for arena rock that alienated a significant portion of what remained of their earlier fan base). White Crosses is the band's most mature album yet, pushing their sounds to all new boundaries. Yet the album is also something of a step back, recalling the spirit of their earlier work much more than the previous two albums.
White Crosses is an album of unified diversity, by which I mean each song is unique and sounds unlike any other song on the album, but all the songs work together to create one solid artwork. The album kicks off with the mid-paced but high energy title track, a punk song with a sing-a-long chorus about wanting to smash white crosses on the lawn of a church. From there, it goes to the toe-tapping "I Was A Teenage Anarchist," which finds frontman Tom Gabel reconciling the band's earlier political stances with where they stand now, and to me seems reminiscent of Bob Dylan's "My Back Pages." Whatever fan slashed the band's tires for signing to Fat Wreck Chords years ago would probably be angered again over the use of piano in the next track, the driving "Because Of The Shame" (in which Gabel describes numbing himself emotionally, "because of the shame [he] associate[s] with vulnerability"). A brief return to acoustic guitars (albiet accompanied by electric) comes in the form of "Ache With Me" (I don't know what's up with the "chk-ka-ah," but the rest of the song is beautiful and touching). Album closer "Rapid Decompression" reminds me of something their Gainesville compatriots Hot Water Music might have written. The Deluxe Edition bonus track "Bob Dylan's Dream" involves an easy-going rhythm (which is nothing new for the band, who have done this many times in the past) and harmonicas (which as far as I know IS new for the band).
I won't go through every song, I just wanted to demonstrate the diversity of the album. It's a fairly short album (10 tracks that clock in at just under 36 minutes), but the band makes the most of the time they use. Not a single track is filler, and any song could have been a single, though the only single so far is "Teenage Anarchist" (but the band released a video for "Rapid Decompression." Long story short, I think this is a great album. Any bad feelings I had left from the disappointing New Wave has been erased and I can't wait to see where they go next. I think that while this album is more complex and diverse than anything they've done before, there's enough of the spirit of old Against Me! that older fans should be able to appreciated it.