Veteran Florida agitprop punks Against Me! take a lot of their energy from righteous indignation and coiled rage. So imagine how hard it must have been for them to get it up to celebrate Tuesday's release of their new album White Crosses with a free show for friends and fans on the roof of SPIN HQ on a perfect June evening as the sun set lushly over the Manhattan skyline. Even the crustiest anti-establishment hellion would have trouble complaining about the postcard beauty of the Amstel Light-sponsored event.
But if there's anything Against Me! have proven with their last two stellar records-chiefly SPIN's 2007 Album of the Year New Wave-it's that Tom Gabel has made peace balancing his band's hardcore grass-roots past with their comfortable, Warner Bros.-funded present, even if some of his older fans haven't.
Launching into the new foreign-policy screed "High Pressure Low" with ear-to-ear smiles should mark some sort of contextual incongruence, but if they'd played the song with any more bounce or force, the show would have risked an unwanted relocation to the floor below. This is Against Me! In a nutshell: The politics are as scathing as ever, but if you just wanna jump up and down or stare off into the sunset, that's cool, too.
Speaking of incongruence, this marked the New York debut of brilliantly mustachioed ex-Hold Steady keyboardist/mascot Franz Nicolay in his new Against Me! gig. Not only did his jaunty fedora and dapper vest and tie fly in the face of his new band's rigid uniform of plain black T-shirt, his background vocals and accordion (!!) added unexpected flair to songs like "White Crosses."
Not surprising, on the day their album was released, that most of the set was comprised by new songs: "Rapid Decompression" seemed an early fan favorite, as did the ultra-meta single "I Was a Teenage Anarchist." But there was still room for old classics like "Sink, Florida, Sink," as well as more recently-minted ones like "New Wave," before the show ended punctually-just before the curfew designed to keep crotchety downtown neighbors at bay-with a blistering "Thrash Unreal."
Perhaps this was the clearest proof yet that Gabel's fuck-tha-police days are truly, happily behind him: Real anarchists don't stop for curfews.
1. High Pressure Low
2. White Crosses
3. Pints of Guinness Make you Strong
4. Teenage Anarchist
5. New Wave
6. Rapid Decompression
7. Bamboo Bones
8. Sink, Florida, Sink
9. Thrash Unreal