Sunday, October 30, 2011

School of Rock: Against Me!

Welcome to the first ever "School of Rock" on Cheeky Cheeky! It's just like school was back when we were little, except there's no homework, no tests, and you could probably get through it without learning anything! (Well, that last part was kind of true about college, too. But you get the idea.) Join me in my educational adventure of rawk.

Rock music is such a broad term. It can classify the toughest of music, and the pansiest of John Mayer tribute bands. But when I think of real rock music, I think of Against Me! If this were biology class, they would be classified in the kingdom of rock, and the class of punk. I don't know what their genus would be- I'm not actually a bio major! (Really, this is just like school.) Against Me! started in 1997 as a solo project for lead singer, Tommy Gabel (the God of modern punk rock) with just vocals and an acoustic guitar. He soon added a drummer and bassist to round out the sound, and from there it just got better and better.

The first time I heard Against Me! and really became obsessed was after the release of Reinventing Axl Rose in 2002. (Prior to the release of Axl were two EPs, both of which are pretty badass in hindsight.) Pretty much the entire record is really epic. Axl has become something of a modern anthemic album in the punk rock scene. After that album, pretty much all of their releases have been criticized by fans. They released two albums on Fat Wreck Chords, As The Eternal Cowboy, and Searching For A Former Clarity, both of which I love. During the time surrounding these albums, fans accused Against Me! of selling out, a term that makes me cringe. But when they signed to Sire/Warner Brothers in 2005, kids really went crazy. In the punk scene, it's nearly impossible to sign to a major record label and not be considered a sell out. I 100% see this as an error in the mindset of the scene, but it's simply a lack of understanding on the part of the kids. I can totally remember claiming blink-182 "sold out" when I was like 12-years-old. I had no idea what it meant, and probably didn't fully understand the concept until I actually studied music business. I digress. On Sire, they released New Wave and White Crosses. If I'm being totally honest, (which I only ever am if my Mom's in the room because she can totally tell when I'm lying) I really love both of their major label albums. Do I love Reinventing Axl Rose more? Absolutely. But I think the great thing about Against Me! is that they really do consistently grow and develop as a band. Even though they've had members come and go, Tommy Gabel has been the consistent driving force behind the band. His vocals are the defining aspect of Against Me! music. I'm not even going to pretend like I don't think he's a musical genius, because I totally do. The career that Against Me! has had over the past decade is really incredible. There are songs off of every single album that I absolutely love, and there are songs off of every single album that I usually skip, just because. I still see each of their albums as successful and they have yet to actually disappoint me musically.

As much as I love forgetting about the outside world and rocking out to Against Me! in my car by myself, nothing compares to seeing them live. Some of my favorite memories of my life in general are of Against Me! shows. If I had to guess how many times I've seen them, it's probably between five and ten, with only one failed attempt to sneak into a show when the venue reached capacity. (It was my last night in New York, and my BFF Trish and I tried to see them play at the House of Vans, where they were opening for Tokyo Police Club. When we showed up, the line was a couple blocks long, and the venue was already at capacity. I'm proud to say I didn't cry... But I did try to sneak in the back. Unfortunately there was a ton of barbed wire around the entire perimeter. It's like they knew I was coming.) For me, there's nothing quite like an Against Me! show. We were always right up in the front, usually amongst a ton of maniacs, screaming our faces off and getting pushed around. Literally, there's no better way to spend an evening. The magnetism Tommy Gabel possesses on stage is so much fun to watch. That, combined with the camaraderie in the crowd, singing every lyric along- nothing tops it.

The other day as I was driving to school, I saw someone with an Against Me! sticker on their car. I literally gasped, and sped up to drive next to them to figure out if it was a boy or a girl. Results were inconclusive. I think it was a masculine girl, but I couldn't get a good enough look. I was bummed. Could have been my new BFF... Now we'll never know.

If you're into The Gaslight Anthem, The Distillers, Rancid, or punk rock in general, click through for a few music videos and general music raditude.

This last video is of Against Me! performing "Sink, Florida, Sink" live. It's the song they usually close the show with, it's always an absolute fucking blast. If you think I didn't cry while watching this... seriously, man? Even though it's only been a few months, it feels like forever since I've experienced that feeling. I want to spend every night at an Against Me! show.

Unfortunately, a lot of their older songs don't have music videos on Youtube. But most of their discography, minus the first EP when it was just Tommy, is on Spotify. So much amazing music.

I have a lot of lyrics I want to get tattooed on me at some point. But probably at the top of my list are these lyrics from "I Was A Teenage Anarchist." I just never want to forget that feeling. Emo kids are emo kids 'til death.

Do you remember
When you were young
And you wanted to set the world on fire?
-Against Me!


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