Against Me!: James Bowman, Tom Gabel (vocals, guitar); Dustin Fridkin (vocals, bass); Warren Oakes (drums).
Recorded at Goldentone Studios, Gainesville, Florida, in December 2001 & January 2002.
Personnel: Sam Jones (vocals, background vocals); Jordan Kleeman (Moog synthesizer, background vocals).
Recording information: Goldentone Studios (07/23/2001-01/12/2002).
Against Me!'s Reinventing Axl Rose is an impressive debut that manages to combine fist-in-the-air singalong choruses, lagered-up rhythms, and urgent drumbeats with the underground, raw intensity these punks are known for live. It's a dynamic record that not only stands firm in its own right, but also hints at a propensity for songwriting in Tom Gabel -- the group's hoarse, politically conscious singer/songwriter -- just starting to be fully realized. From the rowdy, country-influenced drinking anthem "Pints of Guinness Make You Strong," to the somber closing notes of "8 Full Hours of Sleep," Against Me! performs every track with the passion of those who truly believe a song among friends can start a movement for change. The band's leftist political agenda is often offset by empowering social lyrics boasting sentiments of unity, individualism, and self-awareness. Tracks like the lively and rebellious "Those Anarcho Punks Are Mysterious..." declare that "We rock/Because it's us against them/We've found our own reasons to sing," while the album's title track urgently professes, "Everyone would leave with the memory that there was no place else in the world and this was where they always belonged." Often deviating from the standard punk musical blueprint, Against Me!'s blend of energetic folk/punk rock is nothing short of refreshing and engaging. Reinventing Axl Rose is a true classic that brings listeners right into the dirty basements and dive bars that birthed the band -- and serves as the foundation to where they would head next. ~ Corey Apar