The recent popularity of bands that mix the melodies and instruments of Celtic folk music with punk was perplexing to me. It is incredibly catchy so I understand the mass appeal but I guess I was just surprised at such a smooth merge. Genre combinations are usually invitations to imitators and critical acclaim but I didn't expect the synthesis to last. The combination married the two most bacchanalian musical cultures I can think of (Irish pub songs and drunx punx three-chord anthems) to produce a result that perfectly complements a pint. Both were raucous, rowdy, and crude, which produced the most pleasant hangover of singing, screaming, and fiddle I've ever encountered. However, the two fast-paced lifestyles aren't fully reflected by drinking song you'd hear in a social setting; that would ignore the destructive and melancholy elements of the two groups. These are cultures that don't just drink and cheer and have a grand ol' time together. These are also two cultures deeply scarred by their own deleterious nature. Sure, Flogging Molly has a few sad songs but those are mostly a diversification tool, and most of those bands seem their most dishonest and out of place when attempting a somber seriousness. Enter Against Me! stage center. They, instead of combining Celtic folk with punk, mix American folk with punk. When I say American folk I mean the kind associated with cowboys, outlaws, and the Wild West. It's the kind of country that doesn't inspire the corniness of the Grand Ol' Opry and Wynonna Judd or anything, but also isn't overtly skewed to the ruggedness of a lone wolf cowboy. This folk steps above those stereotyped images by being more diverse; Against Me! balances the savvy political sneer of punk with the wistful backdrop of western folk music. There is humor in the sad realizations of the political and personal side of the music that few bands really can achieve. The end result: This Shit Rules.
As the Eternal Cowboy is Against Me!'s second LP, and least "punk" album to date. Surprisingly, it's also their least "folk" to date too. This CD is the first in their discography to include a more rock feel to the music. The drumming is slower, the background vocals less prominent, the singing less gruff and less like screaming. Some songs are riff-based instead of chord progression-based, which utterly betrays punk and folk alike for rock and roll. This change, an obvious turnoff for original fans, isn't terrible. It precludes the ability for the album to surpass Reinventing Axl Rose because it sounds diluted, but Against Me! has provided a set of great songs despite a stylistic uphill battle. In tune with their previous albums, all of the songs are very well written. They all mix rugged catchiness, emotionally sloppy musicianship, and alcohol just with less fervor than previous albums. Interestingly, the album starts off with the same kick and strength of previous albums with the more intense songs "T.R.S. (This Shit Rules)" and "Cliche Guevera," but spills off into a slower and more pensive second half. Present are acoustic remakes of songs found on the Sink, Florida, Sink EP that tone down the punk qualities and really put the spotlight on the singing, which has cleaned up since previous albums.
Though I've whined a bit about the change, the positives far outweigh the negatives. What really matters with a band like Against Me! is feeling, and the feeling is still there. On the first song alone, after the simple ska strummed chords of the introduction and the solitary vocals, the song picks up into one of the catchiest and most moving I can think of. The album is replete with fun/special/moving/grooving/beautiful moments that never stop providing whatever special emotional reaction one derives from it. Between the wonderfully off-kilter playing and still endearingly rough vocals, these candidly simple songs will win your heart in the way that any punk or folk band should: by personality not looks.
To me this kinda feels like Reinventing Axl Rose pt2 - to use the analogy the writer used, its predessecor is fast and drunk and emotional in a fun way; ...Cowboy is like waking up the next morning and looking back at the previous night and thinking oer everything that went on. I think the start of TSR says it right: ''the partys over..''. Yeah very good album, heavier lean on quieter emotional music than the abrasive folkiness of .....Axl Rose
I didn't really appreciate this album until recently. It definitely has a differenty feel from Reinventing Axl Rose, but I like. TSR and Cliche Guevara are definitely my favorite tracks, but Sink Florida, Sink is a good break from the energy of the first part of the album. Good description of the bad as well. I always said if Bob Dylan and Jello Biafra had an angry love child, it would sound kinda like Against Me!.This Message Edited On 10.10.07
My favorite Against Me! album. You can listen to it from beginning to ending, it all flows together beautifully like perhaps nothing else they've recorded since does. A good blend between pop and anarchist sensibilities, which is probably a contradiction to most.