Review Summary: Awake too long.
Rise Against has made a living on solid songwriting and massive hooks that consistently elevated what should have been mediocre albums. Endgame
was the first sign that Rise Against might be starting to run out of gas -- songs ran together and were easily forgotten. Yet there were a few oft-forgotten gems where all the pieces fit together like they used to. There was hope in "Architects," "Survivor Guilt" and the passionate cries therein, hamfisted as they may be. (But really -- who expected a band named Rise Against to be subtle?)
The Black Market
, unfortunately, is another step back. All the edges have been smoothed out of their riffy alt-punk, leaving it with basically no character except Tim McIlrath's raspy vocals. The "political" songs have less bite, and the "personal" songs (a la "Savior" and "Roadside") have less heart. McIlrath's exhaustion with playing revolutionary, as expressed in the diamonds in the rough "I Don't Want to Be Here Anymore" and "Awake Too Long," would have been a poignant choice of theme -- if only they led to any real introspection instead of vague platitudes.
Speaking of platitudes, there are plenty of those on here -- as heard in the plodding "Sudden Life," the hooky but saccharine title track, the dreadful "A Beautiful Indifference"...actually, let's take a look at that one.
Because there is hate and there is love and there is loss
But there is right and there is wrong and there is us
We're falling until we learn to stand up and just to walk away
Pathetic. And yet, I can imagine RA a few years ago making me take those words to heart, somehow. Appeal to Reason
and The Sufferer & The Witness
weren't good albums because of masterful lyrics or dazzling musicianship. They were masterworks in executing simple concepts well. But without McIlrath sounding like he cares at all, the lazy songwriting here has nothing to hide behind.
Oh sure, there are a few intense tracks that recall earlier reincarnations -- "The Eco-Terrorist in Me" is about as subtle as a sledgehammer, but it's oh so nice to hear McIlrath scream again; "Awake Too Long" and its energetic chorus would have fit well on Appeal to Reason
. But then there's "People Live Here," the token 'ballad' that fails to evoke any real emotion, and the pedestrian closer "Bridges," and suddenly the good work is undone.
What little grace The Black Market
has lies in its hooks. In the right mood, a chorus will click and a riff will briefly rise above the sloppy overproduction and resonate. But those moments are too few and far between, damning a once-proud band to mediocrity.