It would be stupid to review this album by comparing it to earlier releases by Against Me!, but it would also be stupid to pretend they didn’t happen. Look at this way, Against Me first released the Crime As Forgiven By EP in 2001 and when they released their full-length debut Reinventing Axl Rose, some fans thought the band changed their sound and didn’t like it. When the band signed to Fat Wreck Chords and released As The Eternal Cowboy in 2003, many fans were, again, unhappy with it. Ditto for Searching For A Former Clarity in 2005. Then Against Me! signed to Sire Records (a major label) and released New Wave in 2007. Fans were, again, unhappy that the band signed to a major label and unhappy with the changes in the band’s sound… again.
If there is one thing we’ve learned about Against Me! frontman Tom Gabel, it’s that he isn’t afraid of any sort of backlash from “the scene” for any decisions he makes and that we shouldn’t expect the “sound” of Against Me! to remain exactly the same for any length of time. All that being said, I think White Crosses is a great rock album that sounds like it should be played in stadiums all over the world. Just imagine a combination of New Wave and Journey/REO/Boston and you’d be close. Sure, when the occasional “Huh!,” and “Chicka-ah,” punctuate songs like “Suffocation” and “Ache With Me,” it’s clumsy and unnecessary, but I’ll be the last person to say that White Crosses isn’t a bold statement for the band.
The production (again courtesy of Butch Vig) is sickly slick, there’s a lot of really retro 80′s sounding keyboards, and the backing vocals sound like they’re from a Def Leppard record, but there’s no doubt that songs like, “White Crosses, “I Was A Teenage Anarchist,” “Because Of The Shame,” “Suffocation,” “We’re Breaking Up,” “Spanish Moss,” and “Bamboo Bones” are all huge rock songs. Yes, that means I nod my head along to ‘em. Lyrically, White Crosses is probably Gabel’s weakest effort in some time and (at many points) just seems overly clumsy. I’ll live with it though. This is not the Against Me! of your teenage years. This is the band that opened for the Foo Fighters a few years ago. If you don’t like it, don’t listen and quit your whining. PS: George Rebelo (from Hot Water Music) plays drums on White Crosses. Word.