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Calling it all out on the carpet

This punk band is against everything -- even Yahoo Mail
/ Source: msnbc.com contributor

Holy crap. It's been a year since we started Indie Study! Along the way, I've noticed a few constants that keep cropping up:

  1. We like to name-drop

From that gross generalization, you could guess we are:

  1. Teeny-boppers.
  2. Culture-obsessed teeny-boppers.
  3. Culture-obsessed CANADIAN teeny-boppers.
  4. Morbidly depressed culture-obsessed Canadian teeny-boppers.
  5. Morbidly depressed culture-obsessed Canadian teeny-boppers caught in a vortex where time, space and musical preference revolve around a used record shop somewhere in London, circa 1979.

We're none of those things of course. Well, the culture-obsessed part is spot on.

It shouldn't be a surprise to you at all, then, that Against Me! has at least three out of the five criteria mentioned above to their credit. (They're from Gainesville, FL. Not sure if they like “The O.C.” We'll check on that.)

This hardcore foursome carries on the punk politico torch that Joe Strummer mightily wielded back in the day, swinging it headlong at everything from the music industry, the Bush administration and even Yahoo! Mail. Against Me!, as it turns out, is against just about everything.

This really works in their favor, being a punk band and all. Singer Tom Gabel's gravelly throat commands rebellion, spitting fiery lyrics with the heart of Billy Bragg and the teeth of Ian MacKaye. The band rears back and delivers blunt, badass beard-core that rumbles with an elemental intensity and almost arrogant honesty. When he grumbles “Nothing’s changed / Jocks and a--holes still don’t know s--t about aesthetic,” I have to grin real big.

“Miami” shoots out of the gate like a modern-day “London Calling” bulging with venom over “sharks circling for the feeding” in a state where “all hope has been abandoned like ballots drifting into the ocean.”

They take Yahoo! Mail to task for refusing to let the family of a slain American Marine have access to his email account on “Justin.” Not for one minute did I ever think Yahoo! was ever going to appear in the lyrics of a punk song.

And who really ever imagined “Condoleeza” would make for a catchy, kick-ass chorus? It does on “From Her Lips to God's Ears (The Energizer)” where Gabel blasts the Secretary of State over Iraq and the “constant war for constant soldiers.” “The President's giving a speech in Georgetown to remember the voice of a slain civil rights leader / Do you understand what the Martyr stood for? Oh Condoleeza do you get the f--king joke?”

If ticked-off Lefty punk anthems were all there was to Against Me! it would lump them in with umpteen bands who all hate the same things, in generally the same way. But Against Me! stands out by baring their fears and doubts about being a band on the rise, standing fearless even in the face of their own contradictions.

Gabel squirms around with his band’s role in the Nu Punk universe on “Unprotected Sex With Multiple Partners,” dropping percentage cuts and industry speak with his signature flagrant disregard for meter. “At this level of success in entertainment, there are certain confrontations. / It's a ‘you give we take’ relationship. / The kids just wouldn't understand it. / Come on now, how long do think this is really gonna last? / How long can you hold their attention? How long before they move on to the next band?”

Against Me! turns the ammo back on itself with “Don’t Lose Touch,” a bouncy wink of a tune nodding at the notion that yes, it’s easy to stand on a soapbox and yell against the world. But it’s harder still to admit you’re actually soap boxing.

“Please tell me I'm not the only one / that thinks we're taking ourselves too seriously / Just a little too enamored with inflated self-purpose,” sings Gabel. “Is there something wrong with these songs? / Maybe there's something wrong with the audience / Manipulation in rock music, equals f--king nausea. / I'm losing touch, and it's obvious.”

There are moments on “Searching For A Former Clarity” that just feel kind of awkward because of their lack of overwrought eloquence. But that’s probably the thing I love most about good punk rock. The point isn’t to write the prettiest songs or the best songs. Just the most direct ones.

For more information on Against Me! visit: http://www.againstme.net/.