[Vinyl Vednesday is a weekly feature about three favorite vinyl finds. It’s not meant to be a dick-measuring contest, but it usually turns out that way. With Against Me!’s White Crosses due June 8 and their
Records: Against Me!’s The Disco Before the Breakdown (2002) on purple marble, The Original Cowboy (2009) on black, and White Crosses (2010) on clear red with these little black specks.
Thoughts: The first Against Me! song I ever heard was “The Disco Before the Breakdown.” The song slowly builds into a rocker, and the horns are a nice touch. “Tonight We’re Gonna Give It 35%,” which Punknews.org still references all the time, is a little more raucous. “Beginning in an Ending” is one heck of a raw acoustic number about saying goodbye to an ex-lover. By this point, frontman Tom Gabel was already saying goodbye to anarchy, as lines like “Taking all I know about nihilism and trying to build it into a life” indicate and “This is everything up to now ending / It was nice to believe for a while” validate. Any or all of these songs could have been on Reinventing Axl Rose, which is a roundabout way of saying that they’re all perfect.
Against Me! caught some flak for signing to a bigger label, Fat Wreck Chords, after the success of Reinventing Axl Rose, which is funny since As the Eternal Cowboy is arguably their punkest yet most acoustic album. The Original Cowboy is an unvarnished collection of reference tracks the band bashed out before recording the album proper, and in some ways it’s the better recording. The quality is a little bit rougher, a little more live. Admittedly, it’s for devoted fans only – Eternal Cowboy has more songs – but it’s still a pretty great second perspective. “Cliché Guevara” and “T.S.R.” sound great, and the version of “Cavalier Eternal” that ended up on the final record actually came from this session.
I hammed out my thoughts on White Crosses Monday night, but here are some leftovers: The first two tracks could have been on New Wave. “Because of the Shame” is the best song on the album, even though the chorus kind of sucks. Those verses simply hit too hard to ignore. “Spanish Moss” is pretty uplifting and hopeful, two qualities that AM! has rarely exhibited in the last few years. The rest of the album is OK, but I think I feel that way because I’m too close to the band’s music to write it off altogether. If a totally new band dropped White Crosses, I’d maybe be a little nicer in my review, but I’d sell the CD to a used record store afterwards. Instead, I’m treating it like a guilty pleasure, an album I’m disappointed in yet keep playing. My girlfriend swears by Tori Amos’ philosophy of “audio porn,” the idea that music should be clear at all times with all of the parts equally represented, and even if she thinks this album is too clean.
“It was nice to believe for a while.”