Perhaps the fundamental question when it comes to modern punk rock is this: what exactly is the artist intending to achieve? Usually, it’s one of two things – either to question authority and at least to attempt to unnerve the ruling class, or else it’s simply to play pop songs at a speed in contravention of sensible limits.
To their credit, Chicago’s Rise Against manage to place a foot in both of these camps. The ominously titled Endgame, the group’s sixth album in 10 years, is a muscular collection of high-energy punk that, amid the flurry, manages to display a level of high-mindedness that is becoming increasingly rare. The sound of the suburban middle-class, too often this is a genre the narrative concerns of which have become colloquial, even mundane; as if the fact that in the past few years the great institutions of state have appeared no more secure than a secret in a soap opera is nothing compared to the concerns of getting a date, or getting even with someone you dated once upon a time. With topics ranging from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico to the perceived unravelling of the American body politic, if nothing else at least Rise Against have a view of their country that extends beyond the boundary of a white picket fence.
Even so, while Endgame is a strong album, and certainly an honourable one, it does lack an ingredient that might be identified as magic. The problem with playing songs twice as fast as the average is that these songs last only half as long. By such a measure, the 12 compositions featured here should be out of the listener’s hair in less than 25 minutes. As it is, in the name of progression Rise Against have stretched things out a bit, meaning some of the selections here do overstay their welcome by about a minute and a half. That the essence of these songs is usually as strong as the identity of the band that wrote them means that no great harm is done. Even so, Endgame is not quite as short, or sharp, or shocking as it otherwise might have been.
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