When they hear White Crosses, Against Me! fans holding out hope that 2007’s New Wave was just a one-off foray into polished, radio-ready punk may give up on the band for good. For everyone else, White Crosses is a set of the year’s most addictively catchy, earnest rock songs. As on New Wave, producer Butch Vig oversees a lustrously clean, slickly sharp set of concise chant-along anthems, and Tom Gabel’s bellicose rebelliousness remains genuine, regardless of its packaging. Exploring his personal and political discontent, he’s simultaneously seething, sad, sarcastic, and always self-aware; like Bruce Springsteen in his prime, Gabel is relentlessly bold even when catering to the masses. Packed with bloated hooks, White Crosses is meant to be easily digestible: “Suffocation” and the title track glide effortlessly on shining guitar riffs, while “I Was A Teenage Anarchist” and “Bamboo Bones” explode with soaring harmony. Accordingly, the same post-New Wave gripes of “sellout” are sure to be heard, a knee-jerk reaction to the fact that this record can connect with everyone, from anguished youth to the aging counterculture to the average Joe who stumbles across it while trolling Sirius. Diehards in the punk scene won’t like it specifically because it’s meant to be inclusive, but based purely on music and message, New Wave and White Crosses prove that powerful albums don’t have to sidestep the mainstream.
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