Monday, August 1, 2011

Against Me! Is Back On The Cross

Against Me!Reissues have become as common as releases for Florida-based punk rockers Against Me! Enough so that some fans have taken to skipping the albums all together and waiting for reissues. But unlike previous releases and reissues, the latest could be the most important.

The reissue, White Crosses/Black Crosses, places their most recent material squarely in the hands of their new independent label, Total Treble Music. It also successfully closes the chapter since they left Sire Records, freeing them up to take a badly needed U-turn and do what they did best: make raw, meaningful, and emotional music.

The decision has already paid off. Since releasing the reissue, they've been invited to support the ever-talented Frank Turner on tour in the United Kingdom.

White Crosses/Black Crosses blows holes in mainstream suck-up reviewer arguments.

When White Crosses was first released, some reviewers backed the band's overindulgence into polished, radio-ready, not-so-punk saying it was "inclusive" despite many punk fans feeling disenchanted by the whole foray into the sell-out experiment. The release of Black Crosses and especially the reissue proves how wrong those reviewers were.

Everything, and I mean everything, sounds better. Back to back, there isn't a single White Crosses release that competes with the acoustic or Goldenstone Studios versions on Black Crosses. It also gives people the glimmer that Against Me! had the right content but the packaging being driven by big label arguments was solid in some cases and off the mark in others.

Case in point. If you like the video version of Because Of The Shame that Jason Thrasher made for Against Me! in preparation for the reissue, you really owe to yourself to listen to the acoustic version. Because Of The Shame is one of few songs that is equally strong on both installments, only leaning toward Black Crosses.

The rest, however, have more hooks, power, and angst across the board. Of course, that's not to say picking up the reissue is pointless when you can pick up Black Crosses on its own. On the contrary, White Crosses also has a few songs without competing versions, namely Bob Dylan Dream, which has a catchy and unexpected sort of styling. And Suffocation.

On the other hand, Bamboo Bones and Ache With Me didn't need second versions. They aren't strong at all. Against Me! made the right call scrapping them on Black Crosses in favor of new songs like David Johansen's Soul, Spanish Moss, Hot Shots, and Strip Mall Parking Lots. How any of these songs were missed on the initial release is anybody's guess. An educated guess. Here's what the band says:

"Having spent our career on both major and independent labels of varying sizes, the creation of Total Treble Music will afford us full control of our creative and professional destiny moving forward. We hope to partner with other labels for the rest of the world for future releases."

All in all, this is one of the reasons that White Crosses/Black Crosses becomes such a significant release. It shows how signing with Sire was the mistake that many fans said it was all along. Welcome back.

As a result, White Crosses/Black Crosses places the last founding member Tom Gabel (guitar, lead vocals) along with long-time members James Bowman (guitar, vocals) and Andrew Seward (bass, vocals) on solid footing. It is also good news that newcomer Jay Weinberg (drums) is sticking with the band.

White Crosses/Black Crosses By Against Me! Nails 9.5 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

The most obvious change up between the new release versus the reissue is that the second gives Gabel more power to his voice, and everyone more aggressive chords, beats, and freedom. Whereas one washes over you and drifts into the background, the second hooks you in from the beginning and keeps your attention throughout the arrangements.

White Crosses/Black Crosses is on iTunes. If one album catches you more than the other, you can also download Black Crosses and White Crosses. But keep in mind, the dual album gives you White Crosses for $2.

At Barnes & Noble, only White Crosses is available. You can also find the combined album, White Crosses / Black Crosses, on Amazon.
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