This is a few days late but really, who cares? Top five (not feeling too ambitious right now; 2010 is in the past, man, etc etc) albums from last year.
The thing I really like about Against Me is that they change their sound on each album in a way that’s interesting and not forced. If they re-did their first album every time around, it would obviously be old and ridiculous by now. But on the flipside, if they started cramming in string sections and weird time signatures just to show they’re “expanding”, it would be terrible too, in a different and even worse way. It’s a dilemma (maybe “a dilemma” is a little much; replace that with “something” or “shit”) every band has to deal with at some point, and I think they’ve done a nice job of handling it. I don’t like every song they do, but you could plausibly argue that each album is better than the one before it, and each is different in an interesting way. There are barely any bands you can say that about. Sleater Kinney would be one. Superchunk, too (they didn’t get better with each album, but every album sounded unique and yet still like Superchunk). And probably Jawbreaker. That puts Against Me in good company, and it makes it so I’m excited to hear what they’ll do next, as it won’t be another stab at their existing formula; it’ll probably be something totally new and different.
This particular album sounds like really, really, really well-done 80s music to me. Not “80s” in the way that most people mean, with Casio riffs and prominent snare hits and vaguely dance-y bass lines. I mean “80s” as in music that was actually popular in the 80s. “80s Music” is a simplified, revisionist genre that doesn’t really represent how bad the decade was. Similar in a way, I guess, to people thinking “Disco” immediately when someone says “70s Music”, even though that wasn’t a big deal for the bulk of the decade. I suppose years from now (or already?), the same thing will apply to “90s Music” and Grunge.
White Crosses isn’t 80s Music in that dumbed-down sense; it actually sounds like real 80s music, perfected. I think the music that was popular in 80s is worse than horseshit (I’d rather listen to horseshit, literally, like put my ear near it, than listen to an entire Debbie Gibson album), but with this record it’s as if Against Me took the scattered slivers of redeemable qualities out of it and turned it into something great.
I’m getting a bit into the weeds here as I realize I’m not exactly a connoisseur of 80s pop singles, and might be talking a load of crap here. To test this I just Googled “1985 Billboard Hits” and picked one of the top ones I didn’t recognize. ‘Broken Wings’ by Mr. Mister. I checked it out to see if it bears any resemblance to the Against Me album.
I didn’t recognize the song at all until the chorus hit, at which point “Oh shit, THIS song” hit me. This song is awful. And it perfectly summarizes actual “80s Music” for me.
On top of that, it DOES sort of remind me of White Crosses! If someone took Broken Wings and made it fucking awesome, it would fit in perfectly on White Crosses.
So: for changing things up in a great way from their previous catalogue, and for making a seemingly awful sub-genre of music sound sweet, this gets Album of the Year for me
I spent too much time on this, so look for numbers 2-5 in a day or two!