Ah, Florida, the Sunshine State. The place where in Tallahassee, Jeb Bush aided his dolt of a brother in pilfering an election and where in West Palm Beach, Rush Limbaugh was snorting enough OxyContin to kill a giraffe, only to gain sympathy from the likes of Sean Hannity. It could be said the state is where the right-wing agenda has its launching pad but if you look toward Gainesville one will see that it is where a band known as Against Me! is rising to national prominence with Searching for a Former Clarity, wherein they have created a punk-folk masterpiece. Frontman Tom Gabel’s words serve as a scathing indictment that shows listeners that while America may be the most prosperous nation in earth, our current leadership is just as crooked as any lawless third world country.
“Miami” gets things going as its roughneck riff-rock foundation is touched by a brassy ska throwdown as “Mediocrity Gets You Pears (The Shaker)” is total moshing fodder from the early days of hardcore when the pits went in a circular motion and weren’t filled with jocks and frat boys. Against Me! can still assuredly retain a rawness to their sound as they do with “Justin,” a track which possesses danceable beats as well as politically minded lyrics that bands like Gang of Four are known for with lines like “You know Justin?/Justin’s dead/Yahoo won’t let his family have access to his e-mail account.” As pissed of as you will be from the cold hard truth that Against Me! informs you of, you still won’t be able to help yourself from dancing on the more Franz Ferdinand-minded “Unprotected Sex with Multiple Partners.”
A quarter of the way through the album, Against Me! proves that they are a voice that needs to be heard in America now, more than ever. But even beyond that point is where “From Her Lips to God’s Ears (The Energizer)” chides the neo-con way of foreign policy, as Gabel rightfully tells the listener what a complete fuck-up the Iraq was, is, and will continue to be as long as America is still over there. And they do it with an oi-punk skiffle, nonetheless. Even the queen of half truths (a.k.a. the Secretary of State) is fair game on verses like “The President’s giving a speech in Georgetown to remember a slain civil rights leader/Do you understand what the Martyr stood for?/Oh, Condoleezza do you get the fucking joke?” Against Me! even get their mod on with “Pretty Girls (The Mover)” and dive onto the Billy Bragg side of the grass with the alt-country twang of “How Low.”
Just about anybody can pick up a guitar and a record contract and start singing about the ills of society but Against Me! makes all of what they are trying to express so very crystal clear in these bad times for America. After one listen to Searching for a Former Clarity one can go on the record of acknowledging that any person who blindly adheres to our modern “Patriot Act Age” is merely an easily-duped individual who is willfully bending over and taking it from NewsCorp.
The Pogues – Rum, Sodomy and the Lash
The Weakerthans – Left and Leaving
Bad Religion – Recipe for Hate