Against Me! 

Searching for a Former Clarity (Fat Wreck Chords)

Against Me! albums contain enough passionately strummed acoustic guitars and populist elements (handclaps and shout-along slogans) to stock an all-day political rally -- and, like such marathon affairs, the Gainesville, Florida-based group's records are alternately inspiring and tedious. When vocalist Tom Gabel isn't reciting guileless lines like "Oh Condoleezza, what should we do about the situation in Iran and North Korea," he's rambling about relationships like a drunken blogger. When he sings, "What are you gonna say when she picks up the phone?/Should you leave a message if she's not at home?" as catchy chords swell, it plays like a pop-punk parody, but Gabel's earnest delivery suggests otherwise. The Clash -- with whom Against Me! are often compared -- attempted to merge every existing genre with varying success, but Against Me! apes pub-rock, folk and ska riffs without varying its sing-songy melodic structure. For all its provocative rhetoric, Against Me! fails to challenge listeners musically.

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