For a while, Against Me! were the most impassioned band on the planet. The Tom Gabel–led four-piece's uncompromising, ramshackle folk punk quickly turned them into exemplars of the anarchist DIY set, and Reinventing Axl Rose (2002) roared with a raw emotional brilliance.
But by the time the Florida band signed to major label Sire, they had become professionals creating sturdy alt-rock that drew from punk without being beholden to it. New Wave, their 2007 Sire debut, came loaded with hooks begging for airplay, and Gabel's self-referential lyrics unapologetically championed the band's new direction. But despite the CD's highlights, overwrought gloss filled in for compelling vulnerability. White Crosses corrects some issues while unabashedly flaunting major-label hallmarks. It, too, has obscenely clean production, and the songwriting isn't nearly as unorthodox as during the group's formative years, but this batch of melodies does boast a shimmer absent from New Wave. The highlight here is "Spanish Moss," which briefly rekindles that reckless spirit as the chorus urges, "You just need to find some place to get away/You can forget your name/And there's no need to apologize."
Unfortunately, most of the record conveys the disillusionment exemplified by "I Was a Teenage Anarchist," a track that finds Gabel prodding the basement scene that the band left behind before climaxing with a depressing realization: "The revolution was a lie." It's great to know the band still have some ire burning, but White Crosses is a crushing listen for someone who bought into Against Me!'s revolution.
AGAINST ME! | WFNX Clambake, Lansdowne St, Boston | June 27 @ 4 pm | $35 | WFNX.com