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Against Me!: New Wave

B+

Against Me!

Album: New Wave
Label: Sire

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When Against Me! released its 2002 debut, Reinventing Axl Rose, frontman Tom Gabel didn't just scream about anarchy, he applied it to his songwriting. That scattershot, folk-punk clunkiness was part of AM's punch and charm, even though it's eroded with each subsequent release. New Wave is the Florida group's fourth full-length and its first on Sire—and predictably, it's a prime example of what happens when a once-DIY band whittles off even more of its rough edges. New Wave's triumph is its ability to rise above Butch Vig's airtight alt-rock production with gruffly sung, hook-heavy songs that show a dark maturity (such as the impressionist, dreamlike "The Ocean") while perpetuating AM's shout-along populism. (The disc's title track makes this explicit with its rallying cry of "We can be the bands we want to hear / We can define our own generation.") And although Against Me!'s politics have thankfully become increasingly questing and complex, the band once waved the black flag of anarchy; had Gabel and crew found a way to bring that joyous chaos to the studio, New Wave might have been more than simply outstanding.