Review Summary: A generally great record, featuring some of the best songs Rise Against have written, with perhaps a little too much filler.
One of the eternal debates of music is what makes an album better: a cohesive collection of songs that flow well and fit together, or individual standout songs that may have little in common. Whereas on The Sufferer & The Witness
Rise Against made their “concept album”, with each song coming together and leaving you with the feeling you actually did hear some sort of story, Appeal to Reason
is a much more traditional album, featuring no discernable story “concept” beyond the disaffection of the society of today. Mix into this is the fact that with every album Rise Against veer farther away from their punk roots, and you can imagine fans may get a bit annoyed with Appeal to Reason
and its mainstream accessibility.
Yeah, it’s pretty much exactly like TS&TW
sound wise. It’s full of punk riffs-gone-radio rock, sometimes “bored” vocals but for the most part contain enough catchy melodies to make up for it, and the basslines are still ridiculously good. It doesn’t ever really stray from the traditional verse-chorus song structure, but when you can write songs as good as “Long Forgotten Sons” within that context on a regular basis, experimentation isn’t really needed. The album is notable for the fact that it contains more mid-tempo songs than any other Rise Against record, and they are in general very strong numbers. Single “Re-Education (Through Labor)” kicks off with a more metal riff than one would have imagined coming into the album, and the opening line “To the sound of a heartbeat pounding away” is classic RA. The song may be a little too much like “Ready to Fall” for some, but it’s an excellent indication of what a lot of the album sounds like.
The big gripe with the album is its inconsistency. Speaking of the bad first, the middle of the album is just dreck, as “The Strength to Go On” through “Entertainment” are either just too standard to be special, or too weird and awkward to be good (“Entertainment” features a strange…polka-induced bridge that just doesn’t work at all). Now to speak of the terrible, “Hero of War” is a pleasant enough acoustic number that is ruined in every possible way by its awful lyrics. Speaking of the torture of prisoners in the new Iraq war, “They took off his clothes/They pissed in his hands/I told them to stop/Then I joined in” might be titillating to some, but most will just feel Tim has gone way too far with his concept here, and just cringe in disgust. While the song begins to redeem itself with its second verse, the first half is so bad, its hard to get over it and soldier on through to the rest.
Luckily after those 4 songs sort of rough up your listen, “Savior” comes in to save the record. One of the most inspired songs RA have written to date, RA forsake the political for a song of sweet, sad love. The chorus of “That’s when she said ‘I don’t hate you boy, I just wanna save you while there’s still something left to save”/That’s when I told her “I still love you girl but I’m not the answer for the questions that you still have” is one of the most poignant of the bands career, and the frenetic pace of the song is indication that they still have the passion from the days of Revolution per Minute
. The beginning of the album also contains its fair share of gems, as “Collapse”, “The Dirt Whispered” and “From Heads Unworthy” all contain moments of pure magic (in particular “From Heads Unworthy” and the gang shouts in the chorus).
Appeal to Reason
is admittedly ‘appealing’ to a larger audience than old fans will be comfortable with, as Rise Against become more and more comfortable with becoming mainstream. However, such a road has paid off for other bands in the past (Bad Religion has written some of their best records in their more accessible days, as have Strung Out), and it seems the same is happening for RA. While it may not be a classic record and won’t be the new soundtrack to the revolution, Appeal to Reason
is filled with faux-punk rock anthems and memorable lyrics and basslines that will satiate anybodies need for Rise Against.
Long Forgotten Songs
From Heads Unworthy