After one listen to Against Me’s fourth record (and jump to the majors), there’s little doubt that singer Tom Gabel is one of the best rock singers today; he sings every song with such passion, gusto and intensity, it’s irresistible. Against Me! have come along way since their 2002 debut Reinventing Axl Rose, softened their edges, and refined their sound, but without losing any of their integrity.
A far cry from their speedy folk punk they perfected on their debut, this album is more focused and concentrates on crafting a solid rock record. Lyrically, the band hasn’t lost their edge either. Gabel’s lyrics run the gamut from the fist-pumping rally cries of “Up the Cuts” (“Are you restless like me?!”) to leftist political views of “White People for Peace” (which has a chorus Manic Street Preachers would have killed for) to the sobering portrait of a lost soul in “Thrash Unreal”, and that’s just the first half of the record.
The best moment on the album may be “Borne of the FM Waves of the Heart”, a duet with Tegan Quin, of Tegan and Sara. It’s a somber and rational look at the end of a relationship. Like many punk bands before them, Against Me! don’t want to get confined in the standard punk formula and can easily move beyond it with a ballad like this without sounding forced.
New Wave, and Against Me! in general are reminder that punk music used to stand for something, and still can. Too many bands have taken the formula and diluted it to the point of being ineffective. With New Wave, Against Me! has easily the best out-and-out rock record of 2007 thus far. It’s captivating, intelligent, and forceful.