Rise Against - Appeal to Reason
Record Label: Geffen Records
Release Date: October 7, 2008
We're broken but still breathing / We are wounded but we are healing / We pick right up where we left off / Breathe on the ashed that remained.
Ahhh, you smell that? It's political opinion warfare, something that goes together with the anti-establishment style of melodic hardcore like hockey moms & Joe Sixpacks. Whenever highly-charged political calendars raise their agenda-minded heads, you can expect an intelligent band to poke its head out of the crowd with lyrics that aren't simply ill-informed propaganda to influence the wrong mindset -- there are actually many bands out there with some brains, who have the tools of music to use as their pedestal to raise awareness rather than preach to the Myspace masses (or is it Facebook now? I can't keep track of all the hip fads you kids are into...).
Entering into the most recent foray of such styles of politically-fueled punk rock is Chicago's Rise Against, releasing their fifth album in nine years, Appeal to Reason. After finding an ample amount of success with their last release, the band continues to stick with the familiar formula, working with renowned punk producers Bill Stevenson and Jason Livermore (Blasting Room Studios) to make an album that contains less radio-friendly anthems for a generation stuck on following the latest hook.
To longtime followers of the melodic hardcore scene, it might sound all too familiar -- Rise Against essentially steps up to snatch the torch from Bad Religion as the new go-to band for recognizing society's problems. The melodies, the fiery drum beats, the static-charged solos ring loud reminders of Recipe For Hate with a dash of cleanly-produced tracks for good measure. This is far from bad, it's just a minor drawback that keeps the band from reaching its own creative peak. Tim McIlrath has found his voice and treats the record as a canvas for his roughneck screams and slow, curling build-ups in order to stand out as the band's voice of -- wait for it -- reason ("Whereabouts Unknown"); at times he resembles Thrice's Dustin Kensrue, able to blend well within the band's sound, capturing the tone in his vocal chords without really trying. "Long Forgotten Sons," a likely candidate for the next single, is a blistering anthem of identity that showcases McIlrath's renegade chops that sound so powerful, it's as if they are trying to set themselves free from his throat.
As mentioned before, the one noticeable flaw with this album is the resemblance it bears to other noteworthy acts. "The Dirt Whispered" has a jangly bass rhythm and bouncy lyrics that remind of AFI and Strung Out; "Collapse (Post-Amerika)" is reminiscent of recent Bad Religion; "Savior" riffs like Alkaline Trio (oddly enough, Matt Skiba guests on the next cut); and "Audience of One" has some awkward Goo Goo Dolls moments in some of its melodies (listen to the verses ... kind of a punk rock John Rzeznik). You could say Rise Against has simply gathered up the bits and pieces of bands that have obviously influenced them -- many bands do this, merely ripping off their peers -- and thankfully for McIlrath's vocals, it's still Rise Against. Not to take away from the talents of the other band members, as Joe Principe's bass brings adept stability to the fold and Brandon Barnes' drumkit is torn to shreds from the severity that he hits it with. Zach Blair and McIlrath play dueling banjos most of the time on guitars, bouncing off each other, providing plenty of fire for the band's protests (although, ironically, the most effective song is the acoustic "Hero of War," a song that would have been a fit Vietnam War anthem).
Appeal to Reason is essentially focused on one big thing: intelligence. There is no fluff here -- the band has put together a fast, smart and generally focused piece of work here. Sure, it's not going down in the annals of punk rock history quite yet, but with any luck the band will be recognized for creating music that says something for the underdogs in a society that seems to be crumbling away with each and every glance. "Spin out of control / Try to recover, but collide with each other," sings McIlrath on "Kotov Syndrome," a lyric that fits especially well in our current period. The rollicking good time of "Entertainment" (with it's circus-oriented bridge and all) could potentially be the theme song for what our nation is going through at the moment, and hey -- of all the bands to be your voice of reason, you couldn't find too many these days that kick your ass while making a good point at the same time.
Good review. I am so disappointed by this album and thinks its complete dogshit. Rise Against is one of my favorites bands and I love all their records and I think they improve with each release. I guess that just changed This album was very boring, bland, lacked emotion, had no standout tracks except for Hero of War, and was not angry sounding enough. I'm also disappointed by the lyrics which are sub par this time. I relate on a personal level with so many of Rise Against's song and this album had no lyrics that meant anything to me. After 4-5 listens I don't think I'll be listening to this anytime soon.
Interesting. Besides the creativity, I feel like this album may be their tamest, but brings out a lot in the band in terms of Tim's vocal ability and the themes touched upon. It might not be as angry, however the lyrics still pack a punch in speaking from a point of view I feel many of us can relate to.
Then again, I'm not as nearly a Rise Against fan as you seem to be -- I love their work and appreciate everything they have done over the years, perhaps not to the extent you have. Thanks for the insight -- though I'm sorry you don't like the album.