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R. Wall "Dr Bob" (UK)

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White Crosses
White Crosses
Offered by nagiry
Price: £14.50

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Growing up with Tom Gabel, 1 July 2010
This review is from: White Crosses (Audio CD)
If you thought AM! had sold out on New Wave (or even Searching for a Former Clarity) then you probably won't be much interested in White Crosses. It's pretty mainstream by comparison with their first two albums (my wife said it sounded like Gaslight Anthem when she first heard it) and, like New Wave, it's got Butch Vig's mark on it. But personally I think it's fair enough that a band should develop its sound. If they'd made five albums like Reinventing Axl Rose it'd be getting boring by now. That record is special because it's unique. White Crosses will probably never have quite the same sort of place in my heart, but to paraphrase AM!, even at their worst they're better than most.

The production is clean and there's little trace of the folky roots. Well, apart from on 'Bob Dylan Dream', which is one of the four bonus tracks. AM! do big riffs these days (Butch's influence, at least in part, I guess). But they do them well. Tom Gabel's always had an ear for a good melody and this record is no exception. He's still got an emotive voice even if it's lost some of its rough edges. And he's still a great lyricist, despite his continuing refusal to write rhymes.

The album gets off to a flyer with four great rock songs followed by the slower 'We're Breaking up'. The pick of that opening quartet for me is 'I Was a Teenage Anarchist', which kind of sums up why some people still love AM! (me included) and some think they're sell-outs. It tells the tale of Tom's journey from, um, teenage anarchist to, well, whatever he is now. (Major label rock band front man, I suppose.) Can't say I've made quite the same journey, but I think I know what he means when he sings 'I was a teenage anarchist, but then the scene got too edgy. It was a mob mentality. They set their rifle sights on me.' I guess I've grown up at the same pace as Tom Gabel and perhaps that's why AM! still speak to me, even though they're saying different things these days.

Album closer Bamboo Bones is a corker too. Reminds me a little of the last song on New Wave, 'The Ocean', in that's it's sort of mid-paced and moody. Like 'The Ocean' I think it'd be great live, so I'm looking forward to seeing them when they tour the UK in autumn 2010. It'll never be like it was seeing them live five or six years ago as they've got bigger and no longer tour in a beat up van called Armageddon, but they certainly are still better than most.

New Wave [CD + DVD]
New Wave [CD + DVD]

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 5 stars, but not quite as good a five stars as some of the earlier stuff (yet), 13 July 2007
This review is from: New Wave [CD + DVD] (Audio CD)
I've only had this a few days and I've listened to it maybe eight or nine times, so this is based on first impressions. 'Searching for a Former Clarity' was a grower that took me a while to get into properly, but I now think it's every bit as good as the first two albums and the various EPs. In fact, up 'til now I don't think Against Me! have released a duff track. Certainly nothing I ever skip when I'm listening to them. Anyway, I think in time I'll probably grow to love this one too, but I'm not yet sure it's quite as good as previous releases. But it is very good.

The first thing you notice is that this sounds like it was recorded in a studio rather than a shed (although so did 'Searching for...'). And maybe it's only 'cos I know Butch Vig produced it, but occasionally it sounds a bit grungy. Some of the riffs are a bit chunkier and I don't think you could really apply the 'folk-punk' label now. But Tom Gabel's got a great ear for a tune and a voice that always sounds like he means it (whatever 'it' is, and I'm not always 100% sure yet with this album). So the overall sound is a logical step on from 'Searching for...'. No real surprises (although this is the first Against Me! album with no acoustic songs on it).

There are a few standout tracks so far. 'Borne on the FM Waves' has got ace boy/girl vocals (reminds me a little of Baby I'm an Anarchist) and very AM! urgent rhythm section that really drives it along. I suppose it's a song about a relationship ending; not unheard of for AM! but there is noticeably less political stuff on 'New Wave' than on their previous records. But lyrically it's still way better than most. There's some darkness and some sadness in 'Thrash Unreal' ("You reach the point when there's not a lie in the world / that you could use to make the boys believe you're still in your twenties") and there's a lot of that trademark AM! storytelling that often doesn't make any attempt at a rhyme but is really compelling (well, I think so). Best example is album closer, 'Ocean': a daydream of perfect family life in Florida which, typically for a band with an apparently ever-more-bleak outlook, ends up suggesting emptiness and detachment from the world. There's nothing like the optimism of `We Laugh at Danger and Break All the Rules' on this album.

So should you buy it? Well I'm glad I did. It might take a bit of getting used to and maybe there'll be a couple of songs that I do end up skipping occasionally, but AM! are still a band with more interesting things to say and better ways of saying them than almost anyone else.

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