Against Me!: White Crosses

Artist: Against Me!

Title: White Crosses
Release date: June 8
Label: Sire

As a longtime fan of punk music (I made the leap from Styx and ELO to Buzzcocks, The Dictators, and The Sex Pistols in 1982, when I was 13), I'm usually curious about what punk bands the kids are being force-fed by the music industry.

In the early 1990s, it was strivers like Green Day and The Offspring who ruled the genre (though, as bad as they were, at least the Offspring made a little money for The Didjits by covering one of their songs). Later, the record industry made millions off sculpted pretty-boy acts such as Good Charlotte and Blink-182. Since then, it's been one indistinguishable Warped Tour after another, with the Florida band Against Me! (the "!" is, sadly, not a typo) emerging as the designated torch-bearer of squeaky-clean, safe-for-everyone mall punk.

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Sorry if I sound like one of those embittered old-timer music snobs when talking about this stuff. I usually keep my mouth shut about it because, duh, it's what happens -- to music and the fans -- and who am I to spoil the kids' good time? That's why I don't have kids. I wouldn't want to be in a position where I'd have to tell my son that The Damned's Machine Gun Etiquette blows away his crappy NOFX record.

So, anyway, it's gotten to the point that leading-light punk band Against Me! sounds more like Journey than it does anything from the days of classic punk. Not that it matters. I just find it interesting. Like Journey, these guys know how to write a great hook. 

On the Butch Vig-produced White Crosses, there's a little bit of Strummer's rabble-rousing ("White crosses on the church lawn / I want to smash them all") and a little bit of Springsteen's populist storytelling ("You left home for a fresh start / Working as a waitress down in Bradenton / With my name tattoo'd into your skin)." Every song is a sing-along arena-size anthem and most songs are really fist-pumpingly catchy. 

I guess I could have a pretty good time with the pandering White Crosses if I'd just let myself. But I just turned 41. Haven't I earned the right to be an embittered old-timer music snob?  
Best song: The title track. 
Worst song: "I Was a Teenage Anarchist" (yes, it's 2010 and that's really a song title from this year).
Rotation: Low
Deja vu: A Walmart-ized Stiff Little Fingers. 
I'd rather listen to: Titus Andronicus, the real deal. I hope they stay raw. Or maybe I'd rather listen to the best record Butch Vig ever produced: The Laughing Hyenas' Life of Crime.
Grade: C.

"Nothing Not New" is a yearlong project in which New Times editorial operations manager Jay Bennett, a 41-year-old music fan and musician, will listen only to music released in 2010. Each Monday through Friday, he will listen to one new record (no best ofs, reissues, or concert recordings) and write about it. Why? Because in the words of his editor, Martin Cizmar, he suffers from "aesthetic atrophy," a wasting away of one's ability to embrace new and different music as one ages. Read more about this all-too-common ailment here.

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