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By Andy Argyrakis
Rise Against applies old school punk ethos on latest album
"One on One"
Feb. 9, 2009
Groups most readily tagged as punk don't often get the opportunity to perform in arena rock settings, but in the case of Rise Against, members scored the chance to demonstrate their abilities before tens of thousands across separate outings with My Chemical Romance and Billy Talent. Aside from being the most mammoth venues the Chicago-based band's ever played, those experiences liberally rubbed off into the sessions behind the brand new Appeal To Reason (DGC/Geffen).
"The biggest difference from the previous record is there are a lot of big rock songs," says front man Tim McIlrath when stacking up the tracks against those on 2006's radio penetrater The Sufferer & the Witness. "Having spent a lot of time in massive rooms in front of massive crowds got a rock itch going in all of us- a rock song can really change the mood of a huge room. We also did our first acoustic song on this record, but there's still a lot of traditional Rise Against punk stuff people have come to expect."
Pinpointing the foursome's furious sounds has always been a tricky task, simply because of all the variable shifts since debuting in 1999 on the indie level and then signing with the majors by 2004. Outside of membership switches, the group's constantly tweaked its punk-centered base of melodic hard rock to not just keep up with the times, but help plot a more meaningful course than the current Hot Topic confection of the day.
"We never go into the studio with a strategy or a plan, we just want to go and write songs and we haven't run out of ideas yet," he continues. "We're a punk band that now exists at a level many punk bands never really got to, which is uncharted territory for us that we're just trying to figure out how to navigate. We don't have anything in common with lot of bands in radio world and MTV. We feel like a fish out of water, which is why we want to bring bands that inspire us on the road with us- bands that are our friends, peers and helped us out."
Rather than taking out whoever's topping the charts, Rise Against is turning to indie credibility for its latest round of opening acts, which don't necessarily have a ton in common when it comes to musical similarity other than a common thread of quality. Fellow Windy City natives Alkaline Trio have always steered towards the darker side of the dial, Thrice is best known for melding introspective lyrics over aggressive licks, while relative newcomers The Gaslight Anthem is a Bruce Springsteen-inspired punk act.
"We're proud to feel like part of a community and it's not just about bringing the bands selling highest amount of records," McIlrath verifies. "We're really in a position to do a lot of good, but we also want to create a ground work for bands to pick up where we left off after gone- we think a lot about the future of it. Somebody will inherit all of this, and as much as I don't want to stop playing, I realize it's all a cycle and we hope to set the model [other bands] can follow just like the same [example] the early punk and hardcore scene in Chicago set for us."
If there's any record to help cement those ideals, it's clearly Appeal To Reason, which besides packing plenty of stylistic intrigue, is full of Rise Against's most provocative lyrical musings to date. Never ones to shy away from politics or activism, the empowering project is particularly timely during this election season and calls out today's societal ills in hopes of igniting a fire within its listeners to corral for change.
"Today's political climate and the tumultuous times in general are creating a generation of people who are opening the newspaper everyday and walking away so overwhelmed," the singer sums up. "It keeps getting crazier, which leaves for a lot to write about, and you have to be numb to not notice it. I think bands like us are needed now more than ever, especially as the musical climate is estranged from any sort of punk ideals. Punk in a lot of ways has crossed over into mainstream where it's brought the superficial aspects but left behind the guts. In some ways, politics are passé and it's way cooler to be the hipster cynic in high tops and neon colors. As a result, this band has been labeled extreme and radical, but it's not trying to be. It's really about common sense things and that's why our music has and probably always will speak to the disenfranchised and alienated youth."
This article originally ran in Hear/Say Magazine.