If you’re a fan of Against Me! you understand that vocalist/guitarist Tom Gabel has a penchant for surprise. No one ever knows what to expect from Gabel and his ever-changing lineup—not even Gabel himself. Nothing is ever planned. Each of the albums Gabel has recorded for Fat Wreck Chords evolved out of collaborations with myriad sidemen, friends, and producers.
The full impact of this free-spirited approach towards punk is found on Americans Abroad, which documents a show the band played at London’s Mean Fiddler earlier this year. It’s a tremendous show. The current lineup, which includes Warren on drums, James on guitar, and Andrew on bass, delivers an eminent performance filled with extreme political material backed by subtle social observations that exposes the onslaught of madness gripping the world.
Every song on Americans Abroad is a gem, but a few reach orgasmic ecstasies. “Unprotected Sex with Multiple Partners”, the classic “Reinventing Axl Rose”, “Pints of Guinness Make You Strong”, “Cliché Guevara” and “Turn Those Clapping Hands Into Balled Fists” are frenzied blows to your conscience with Gabel, James and Andrew pounding the audience out of complacency. Gabel swings wildly between imploring the audience to pay attention to demanding response. It’s a show reminiscent of late 70’s L.A. punk as practiced by The Germs, Flesh Eaters and Randoms, and Gabel appropriately steals the intense energy of those bands and explodes it on Londoners with the iconoclastic flair of Guy Fawkes.
Americans Abroad also features the previously unreleased title track, and a bonus video that features parts of the Mean Fiddler gig. More importantly, it’s an album that excites, motivates, and showcases Gabel’s wry wit and the band’s monster chops. It may take you a couple of seconds to recognize some of the songs because they’ve all been re-worked for this tour. However, it’s worth the wait on these tracks to discover the new paths Gabel leads you down.
That Against Me! made a reputation for itself by constantly moving the boundaries of punk music is a feat in itself. The performances on Americans Abroad display not only a penchant for surprise, but a willingness to continue experimenting with a style that went dormant too quickly. When punk was unleashed upon an unsuspecting world, no one figured it would last. Thanks to groups like Against Me! punk will continue to lead its fans into rich musical terrains.