In this day when Rebecca Black can become a music star by using a computerized voice and pointing out that Saturday and Sunday come after Friday, it is refreshing to hear a band with actual instruments, singing about actual events that are taking place in this world.
Enter Rise Against, a political-punk rock band from Chicago. Every member of this band is a vegetarian and a supporter of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. All the band members except the drummer abstain from drugs and alcohol. In the band’s sixth studio album, “Endgame,” the listener is challenged with a number of questions to reflect on.
This band’s political background makes the members more than just musicians. They are spokesmen for an angry generation of teenagers. On the band’s website, there is a counter showing how much money the U.S. has spent on the war in Iraq. One of the band’s most famous songs, “Ready to Fall,” was released in 2006 with two music videos. The first was made for TV, the other made for only the strong-stomached. This second version is available online (watch with caution) and contains a number of sickening images, such as a man clubbing a seal over the head and two garbage truck drivers picking up a dog and throwing it into a trash compacter. Watching this music video can make a person hate mankind.
“Endgame” is Rise Against’s second album with its current lineup of singer/rhythm guitarist Tim McIlrath, bassist Joe Principe, drummer Brandon Barns, and lead guitarist Zach Blair.
“Endgame” is full of songs about recent worldwide events, such as the Gulf Coast oil spill. The first single, “Help Is on the Way,” concerns the oil spill and is accompanied by a music video about Hurricane Katrina. This song repeats the line “Help is on the way/they said, they said” in the chorus, until the last part of the song where they scream, “They never came.”
According to McIlrath, the second single, “Architects” is about how this generation needs a social architect like Martin Luther King Jr. to pave the way for future generations.
Toward the end of “Make it Stop (Septembers Children),” the names and ages of Tyler Clementi, Billy Lucas, Harrison Chase Brown, Cody J Barker, and Seth Walsh can be heard faintly in the background. All of these people committed suicide in September 2010 after bullying related to homosexuality. Most famous was Tyler Clementi, the student from Rutgers University who took his life after his roommate filmed him having sex with another man and posted the film on the Internet. This song is about how this bullying has to stop.
The other 10 songs on this album follow this same political mold. From a musician’s standpoint, Rise Against is not legendary by any means of the world. Though they are all very good technically, none of the band members are comparable to musical greats like Freddy Mercury, Jimi Hendrix or Keith Moon. The band’s strong point is how well they fit together. This is the perfect band to “car band” or rock out to air instruments in the car with three friends.
The one problem with Rise Against and “Endgame” is the negative light in which they portray humans. Sure, humans aren’t the most innocent animals in the world. But listening to Rise Against for an hour can make the listener absolutely hate mankind.
Other than the negativity, Rise Against’s newest album “Endgame” is an awesome album with a number of potential hit songs that can become battle cries for this generation.