I’m going to pose a philosophical question for you. What is an album? Or more to the point, how should an album be considered? As a collection of music in and of itself, or as a series of songs to be experienced through the filter of the artist and their past work? If it’s the former, then White Crosses basically works. However, in the case of the latter, it is an unmitigated disaster.
Long gone is everything that had come to represent Against Me! The acoustic guitars and general folk mentality had already disappeared a few albums ago (the closest they come here is the bonus track “Bob Dylan Dream” which plays more as them taunting their fans rather than catering to them, like “Hey, remember when we were an awesome folk band? Nyah nyah!”), but joining them now is any semblance of edginess. This album is too slick by half, which is troublesome as Against Me! is a band that thrives on roughness. It’s their lifeblood, and they have slowly been polishing it away, and now they have succeeded in completely negating any punk credibility they had once brandished proudly.
Several long-term fans had issues with their previous album, New Wave, citing a lot of issues I have brought up here. And while they’re not necessarily wrong, that album still had plenty of rough edges due, in large part, to singer Tom Gabel’s vocals, but alas, those too have had a belt sander taken to them and have been brought to a shiny veneer. Now, typically I’m not one to get too hot and bothered over high production values, as I think it’s odd to fault a band for trying to make their music sound as good as possible, however, you can take it so far that you no longer sound like yourself, and that is exactly what Against Me! has done here. They have over-polished their album into a beige mass of blah.
I had this album in my car where it cycled through a couple times, and it got to a point where, even after a few listens, I would turn it on and have absolutely no idea where in the album I was. Almost the whole thing bleeds together. Ironically, the only two songs that stood out to me were the two that drove me the most crazy. The aforementioned “Bob Dylan Dream” stands out for the aforementioned reasons, and “I Was A Teenage Anarchist” is notable for being infuriating. Against Me! used to sing about practicing anarchy in the present tense (“Baby, I’m An Anarchist”), but that is just one more thing that has gone by the wayside.
What is probably the most frustrating thing of all, though, is the music isn’t necessarily unlistenable. A different band could release this same album and I would probably like it a heck of a lot more. But as an Against Me! album it is so completely misguided, that at a certain point it becomes more funny than anything else. As a matter of fact, I recommend you listen to it for that reason alone.
So where does that leave us? Well, if you’re unfamiliar with Against Me!’s past work, you will probably enjoy White Crosses much more than I did. The bottom line is I was unable to separate the music from the musicians, and that is the album’s fatal flaw; it’s for new fans only. Against Me! has been heading this direction for a few years now, and they don’t seem to be altering their course whatsoever. My advice to them? If they plan on releasing more albums this safe, they should probably, if nothing else, drop the exclamation point.
Posted under Kyle's Adventures in Pop Culture
This post was written by Kyle on June 28, 2010