Against Me!

Searching for a Former Clarity (Fat Wreck Chords)

Against Me! albums contain enough shouted slogans, passionately strummed acoustic guitars, and prominent populist elements to stock an all-day political rally. Like such marathon affairs, its records are alternately inspiring and tedious. Singer Tom Gabel's strident calls to arms will mobilize the sort of listeners who believe that broadcasting their beliefs on their bumpers is a sound subversive strategy. His disdain for subtlety and penchant for punctuating strongly worded sentiments with profanity willfully retard the group's appeal.

When Gabel isn't reciting guileless lines like "Oh, Condoleezza, what should we do about the situation in Iran and North Korea," he's rambling on about relationships like a drunken blogger. This Gainesville, Florida group draws frequent comparisons to the Clash, largely because of its reliance on faux-ska stomps, but its confrontational lyrics make that mildly metaphorical outfit seem as obscure as James Joyce. The Clash attempted to merge every existing genre with varying success, but Against Me! apes pub-rock, folk, and ska riffs without varying its standard singsong melodic structure. For all its provocative rhetoric, Against Me! fails to challenge its listeners musically.