Friday, June 7, 2013

Against Me! - Reinventing Axl Rose

Against Me! – Reinventing Axl Rose
No Idea, 2002
Acquired: Half Price Books, Used, 2013
Price: $4

I was never very good at being a punk. There was a solid year in high school where I really cared about being legit, but that all fell apart when I admitted to liking Radiohead. But there was a year where I was listening to nothing but Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, Minor Threat, Descendents and every band signed to Fat Wreck Chords (I always had a soft spot for pop). Against Me! Were a part of that too, but I never had the nerve to ever consider being an anarchist. Sure I wore an American flag patch upside down on my patch-covered hoodie but who was I kidding? I hated America, but 9/11 had just happened so I couldn’t really hate America. I was sixteen, and if I remember anything about sixteen it’s that all of my beliefs and opinions about God and Country were so fresh off the boat that they were quaint at best. Just groundwork for a more adult understanding of the Issues. But holy shit I loved Against Me! So much. They were making punk rock in a way I’d never heard before. The folk elements and the scream-a-long atmosphere like it was all one big party drew me in on the surface but it was Tom Gabel’s lyrics that really made me fall in love. There is just so much honesty in these songs. A sort of honesty that was kind of absent from NOFX (with the exception of The Decline) or Bad Religion or any other band trying to topple the system or making fun of George W Bush. Part of it was the way Gabel sounds like he’s about to lose his voice at any second, part of it was that he was just singing about his friends and himself. Personal politics are way more interesting than world politics. I still can’t tell if he’s serious when he’s singing “Baby, I’m an Anarchist!” but it doesn’t matter because the point gets across. The point gets across because it’s funny. Not like fart-joke funny but like legitimately, at its core, beautifully hilarious. I find it hard to believe that Gabel was being entirely sincere on that track considering Against Me!’s eventual signing to Sire Records and making a slick sort of folk-punk that was apparently better suited to the masses. I saw them play at one of 96.5 the Buzz’s summer concerts at City Market and I was just baffled that they looked like they were trying to be rock stars. I know it’s silly to call anyone a sellout, because as an adult and not a sixteen year old punker I understand that if you can justify compromising your ideals so you can provide for your family then you probably do it so long as it’s not too sleazy, but it wasn’t the band I fell in love with. The band that helped me stay politically aware and suspicious in a time when blind patriotism could have very easily taken over my young brain. You really can’t expect your punk rock idols to stay young and hungry forever, I suppose.

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