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Against Me! – Searching for a Former Clarity

I have to let you in on a little secret before you read the rest of this review.

Against Me! is probably the best punk band to arrive on the scene since 2000. If you haven’t already picked up the brilliant Reinventing Axl Rose and As The Eternal Cowboy, you’ve missed out. In the best tradition of the Clash, Against Me! serves up protest rock with a nod to Woody Guthrie and the folk tradition and scream-along punk that won’t let you stand still.


Where As The Eternal Cowboy was introspective and owed more to Johnny Cash than Joe Strummer, Searching for a Former Clarity has a bigger, more complex sound and a wider range. There’s still that folk-country flavor, the anger and the sense of humor (a song about the record industry titled “Unprotected Sex with Multiple Partners” proves that Against Me! come up with the hands-down best song titles in the business, and that’s before you get to “Even at Our Worst We’re Still Better Than Most”), but there’s everything from Cuban-spiced horns on “Miami” to a military beat for “Justin,” the country hard-luck barroom ballad “How Low” and right after it the acoustic, optimistic “Joy.”

My favorite song, though, is “From Her Lips to God’s Ears (The Energizer),” which calls up the spirit of Reinventing Axl Rose and adds a rousing call-and-response chorus of “Condoleezza! (Condoleezza!)” while asking “Do you get the fucking joke?” Against Me! are at their best when combining politics with humor and details that most people miss. They’re already the soundtrack to everything that gets me angry and fired up. On this record, they prove that they can also be the soundtrack to moments happy and sad, funny and heartbreaking, and change it up without losing the things that made you love them in the first place.

This album might not change your life the way I think their first record will, but, well, they said it themselves: even at their worst, they’re still better than most. And this is far from a worst.


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