Against Me makes its official debut on Fat Wreck Chords with the 11-track The Eternal Cowboy, almost an EP by punk standards. Driven by classic punk aesthetic, Against Me maintains a decidedly lo-fi focus on punk’s street folk leanings, giving it an organic edge that at times goes beyond what acts like Rancid and Flogging Molly have done to revive the purity of the genre.
It’s the type of movement the underground industry is becoming accustomed to, as punk artists increasingly bypass standard iconic influences like the Sex Pistols and The Ramones to instead sing in the praises of what some consider to be the original punks – we’re talking Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Waylon and Willie. And while one can suss out this sincerity in Against Me’s music, the guys from Gainesville, Fla., point to Billy Bragg as a predominant influence.
Given such tendencies, the amorphous alt-country tag is typically soon to follow. Yet the tunes on The Eternal Cowboy merely flirt with the fringes of the genre, rather than playing somewhere squarely between the sounds of, say, Drag the River and Wilco.
As for hang-ups, the album is almost too brief in that each song tends to end before it begins. In this sense, The Eternal Cowboy is akin to The Beach Boys’ “Smile,” a record that merely featured a collection of good songs in the process of becoming great. Fortunately for Against Me, its tunes aren’t in need of lush landscapes or great walls of sound, but rather a step or two to transform its compelling parts into complete songs.