After a few listens, it becomes clear that this record has spent a lot of time in post-production. Never mind the fact that the band wrapped recording in October and the album still isn't officially out yet. The music is full and incorporates instruments, such as piano and a layered mix of acoustic and electric guitars, absent on previous Against Me! releases.
White Crosses is an album that stays true to the band's punk roots while pushing the group into experimenting with more of a straight ahead rock'n'roll feel. The songs are excellent. But they come from a band that has been decried as sellouts by the wannabe anarchists who initially gave the group a fanbase. It's a shame, too, because this is some of singer/guitarist Tom Gabel's best songwriting. Nevertheless, this is easily the best release of the year so far and it isn't even scheduled to come out until June. For those of you who just can't wait any longer, it is not all that difficult to find on various file-sharing and torrent sites. Also, Tom Gabel graciously gave everyone his blessing by acknowledging the leak and offering the lyrics to the songs on his blog.
And now, a brief yet triumphant review of the songs themselves:
- White Crosses - A song that addresses the debate surrounding abortion. The white crosses the song references are supposed to represent all of the fetuses that are aborted daily in the U.S. Gabel passionately sings that he wants to smash them all. Guess which side he's on?
- I Was A Teenage Anarchist - Scheduled to be the first single, this song is very catchy and deals with Gabel's earlier anarchism and subsequent dissociation from that type of politics.
- Because Of The Shame - Against Me! put on their Bruce Springsteen costumes, play a little piano and also sneak in a little bit of Green Day influence (although they might not like to admit it). This is a killer track that deals with the loss of a close friend.
- Suffocation - This one opens with an 80s style guitar intro before moving into a more standard Against Me! guitar line. Overall, one of the weaker tracks, but even at their worst, this band is still better than most.
- We're Breaking Up - Buoyed by tasteful piano arpeggios and a muted guitar riff during the verse, this song explodes into a triumphant chorus. An excellent ode to the end of a relationship, perhaps addressing the band's near break-up in the time between their last record and this one. A time during which long-time drummer Warren Oakes left and was replaced by former Hot Water Music drummer George Rebelo.
- High Pressure Low - The intro to this song could be right out of a John Hughes movie. Another catchy track that showcases how well this band constructs bouncy, melodic punk songs with hook-laden choruses.
- Ache With Me - If the last song showcases the band's ability to make punk catchy, this one proves that they can also write slower, more contemplative songs that win you over on the strength of the lyrics and their delivery over an acoustic rhythm and simple drum beat. Spoiler alert: this one's a bit of a downer. The moshers might not know what to do when this song is played live...
- Spanish Moss - The intro is a definite nod to The Who, followed by some beefy power chords and excellent drumming from Rebelo. This is an idealized song about getting away from it all without owing anyone an apology.
- Rapid Decompression - An incredible burst of sheer energy. This song is one minute and forty-three seconds of punk injected directly into the bloodstream. The best punk song on the album.
- Bamboo Bones - Against Me! knows how to end an album. Write a song with lyrics about God, throw in some passionate guitars, bass, and drums, then give it 135%. And that's exactly what they do.
Disclaimer: Remember that this review is based upon a leak of what we believe to be the full album, not necessarily the actual album that will be released. It is quite possible that the record will contain more songs, different songs, or have a different track listing.