Review Summary: The best acoustic album of 2011 for sure! Wait, there is an extra 1 there...
It’s a pretty big fad to talk about how “honest” someone is when discussing how objectively good something is. “Nah man, he can’t play any instruments and he can’t sing or write a song to save his life, but he totally
loves college.” It seems that the more ‘emotional’ (punk) or ‘real’ (rap) or slutty (pop) someone is, the more leeway they get to have critically when it comes to their deficiencies. Are Titus Andronicus really playing anything that special? Probably not. Is Kanye West more than an egotistical prick, really? Doubtful. Was Conor Oberst really the next Bob Dylan at any point in his life? God, I hope not. It really is all just a bunch of crap, designed to let people (AKA: me) whore bands out without having to actually justify them having any merit.
That being said, this Acoustic EP
is undoubtedly one of the most honest pieces of music ever to be released. Hyperbole? Yeah, but who gives a fuc
Tom Gabel pretty much did everything you could do right here. He wrote a bunch of simple acoustic riffs, a bunch of honest portraits of life as a middle class white guy disillusioned with the world he was being thrust into, and then sang as loud as he possibly could, when he can barely hold a note for longer than a syllable. Its kind of like an acoustic Bon Iver: forget all the auxiliary bullsh
it and love songs, and they may as well be the same damn thing!
Does the technical complexity or song arrangement or overarching concept or textural layers or use of vocal layering or succinct musical timing matter at all? No. The EP is sloppy as all hell. Vocal harmonies abound everywhere, but they aren’t pretty. It sounds just like it would at a rock show: a bunch of dudes (and girl. Singular) singing off key and slightly off time. Most of the guitar parts aren’t played in any normal fashion (you wonder if Tom really knew how to play guitar at this point in his life…), and the song flow is nonexistent. What the fuc
k makes this any good?
Every song here means something. People can call Tom Gabel out on being some Anarchist tool back in the day, but at this point he had obviously shed most of that and had simply begun realizing the hypocrisies that litter the world. “Jordan’s First Choice” and “Those Anarcho Punks Are Mysterious” are pieces on the state of a world that can’t decide what it wants to be; anthems on how division between selves, right and wrong, and even the confusion of growing up.
And we rock,
Because it's us against them.
We found our own reasons to sing,
And it's so much less confusing
when lines are drawn like that,
When people are either consumers or revolutionaries,
Enemies or friends hanging on the fringes
Of the cogs in the system,
It's just about knowing where everyone stands.
There is of course “Reinventing Axl Rose”, the most punk fu
cking song ever written. The entire song is simply about the ideal of being a punk band who goes out to play every night for the kids, no matter what the situation, and that want everyone has of having that one place they can be happy regardless (fallin’ in love with their girl, at the rock show). Of course, like every great meaning, 99% of local bands today have no clue what this song is talking about, and it makes its message one tinged with the sad realization that, no, we don’t have bands that play loud and hard every night (exception: Algernon Cadwallader).
The closing songs are the key tracks here (and, oddly, only available on the CD version or via download; sorry vivalavinyl wannabes). If you didn’t hear “Pints of Guinness Make You Strong” this past St. Patricks Day, you aren’t hanging out at the right pub. Suffice to say that this is THE Against Me! song
, and if you don’t sing along to “if I would have known just how things would have ended up, I just would have let myself die” you’re probably some sort of evil, soulless robot sent by hipsters from the future. Probably. “Untitled/Armageddon” is the song everyone wants to write, with that one line that’ll haunt your brain for months: “and for the four year old girl found dead in a dumpster, shot by her mother, her eulogy’s the sound of construction through head to head traffic- today is just another day”.
All in all, listen to this EP. If you’ve thought everything I’ve said is either A) pretentious bull*** or B) hokey nonsense or C) mindless drivel, you’re right on all counts. Lucky for you, this Acoustic EP
has none of that. It’s a mini classic, and regardless of what you may think of Against Me! From later albums or even stuff like Crimes…
or Re-Inventing Axl Rose
, its worth a spin.