What I love about punk rock, is that it is so multifaceted and surpasses every definition that someone tried to nail to it. Though there has inter-scene bickering, arguments about what is true punk rock since people gave the genera a name, I believe that so many different sounds and attitudes deserve to be called punk. I love the nihilistic bands like the Sex Pistols, the political bands like The Dead Kennedys, the pop bands like The Descendents, and the ones that scream for social change like Fugazi. They all come from the same core ideals and attitude, yet go off on their own tangents with their own sound. They all know that they are outsiders, at least on the way they view the world, and they know that the status quo is anything but what we should accept.
Rise Against has been influenced by and borrowed ideas from them all. Their melodic hardcore style is both passionate and catchy, their social consciousness admirable, and their lyrics wonderfully articulate. From their music to their videos, they use their fame to expose issues and inform their fans (and potential fans) about a variety of issues that everyone should be thinking about, yet they never cross over into the realm of preach-y-ness. They take a stance and never back down – take it or leave it.
(As an animal rights supporter, I believe that the Ready to Fall video may be one of the most important pieces of information ever created. The scenes are graphic and horrifying and expose a terrible world that most of us were previously unaware of.) Even if you don’t love their music, or believe in all their causes, you at least respect them and what they are accomplishing and striving for.
Rise Againt’s latest album, The Black Market explodes in typical Rise Against style – the songs are hard and aggressive yet get stuck in your head. Through lyrics, this album is able to take many prominent issues and present them in a very personal way. Their lyrics have an elegant way of being both very universal and very persona, sometimes blatantly, sometimes in metaphor, and sometimes in parallel.
Most songs begin some place dark yet always emerge in a place of light and hope. This structure of bleakness and redemption, is the perfect format to illustrate Rise Against as a whole, they see what is wrong with the world, society, people and have the hope that they and the people they inspire can make that change for the better. I Don’t Want To Be Here echoes a voice that many of us have heard inside out own heads “no longer recognize the place that I call home / no longer recognize this face as my own / somewhere, this fate, I lost control”, this simple statement of reflection when you stop in your tracks and say, how the hell did I get here? And then the strength to change “your paradise is something I’ve endured / see I don’t think I can fight this anymore / I’m listening with one foot out the door”.
Tragedy + Time is one of the most intensely personal tracks (and I mean personal in the way that something doesn’t necessarily have to be true to the singer/writer to be genuine). It is a dark, slow track, yet it is still filled with passion. It makes you feel as though you are ready someone’s diary. It’s despair begins, “on the edges of the sharpest knives / in the middle of the darkest nights / always knew that I would find you here / in a puddle of the bravest tears” to progress to a future, “sometimes you have to go back / to know just where you have been / but we’re old enough to know that / what has been will be again / and again” to get to the final line, “but we all learn to laugh again”.
Again we see this progression in The Black Market, ” a currency of heartache and sorrow / the air we breathe is stale with mold / shadows we are slaves / digging deeper every day” to “I’ve been searching for a remedy / when all along it’s been in front of me / your voice it washed the stains away”.
My favorite track on the album is The Eco-Terrorist In Me. First off, it is loud and rough and hardcore. The sound is simply kick ass. Also, it deals with a subculture that most people have never been exposed to (outside of an episode of Law & Order or two) and talks about concrete details and elements in such a nonchalant way, that you are immediately drawn in and apart of this story. It then lets you in even deeper, into the most basic tenent of an activist mindset “because I found god / in the sound / of your factories burning down / now I sleep so sound” This song It is the perfect pairing of content and form, and it incites you to do even just a bit more about all the injustices that you see in the world.
Sudden Life has a breathy sound that gives way to a throaty desperate plea to try to understand how to really live a life that matters, from addressing society at large “I saw it flicker like a television set / bright flashes of a warning sign / flipping channels in a world gone static / eroding away / line by fading line” to tackling the same idea on the individual level, ”are you dying all your life? / broken, beat, and tired out / you want to live but don’t know how”. All this commentary, with a hook that will get stuck in your head.
Awake Too Long is a cool track that has some poignant lyrics (“I’ve seen the eyes of the widows left behind / I’ve seen the child of a fallen man / and never once did our leaders apologize/ for battles they began”) yet it isn’t until the ending of the track, when, there is a scratchy screaming reputation of, “I’ve been awake to long” where it really makes you feel the screaming and searching, it hits you in the gut.
People Live Here is a stripped down simply beautifully sad track. “Do you cry my name in the dark / like I do yours?” that progresses to, “I scream to the sky / hey people live here”. What a simple yet articulate way to show the feeling of frustrated desperation.
And it wouldn’t quite be a Rise Against record without the blatant attack on the powers that be. Bridgesaddresses our own naivety and the price that we are paying for it, “and there a voice deep inside of me / saying the progress we are making / is not progress at all … into a world of promises / is where we let ourselves be led…we built the bridges / we now sleep under”.
Okay, so I’ve rambled on, talked about almost all the tracks on this record, but I couldn’t help myself. Rise Against is more than their music, more than their lyrics, more than the band. They are people who genuinely want things to change and have chosen music as their most powerful weapon to get that messages across. They exemplify the ideals and causes that I grew up believe in so strongly (the Wilkes Barre scene was vegan, straight edge, animal rights, free Tibet, Food Not Bombs driven) so it strikes a chord with me. And I really hope that they strike a chord with the young punk rock kids that are looking for something to believe in.