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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tuesday's Pick: Silversun Pickups, Against Me!, The Henry Clay People

Posted By on Tue, Aug 3, 2010 at 7:00 AM

Can you spot the real Tom Gabel?
  • Can you spot the real Tom Gabel?
Against Me!
8 p.m., $35

Calling all ufologists and conspiracy buffs! Tonight we can witness evidence of aliens among us -- proof that Pod People do indeed exist. You may notice these Pods' exoskeletons take the form of ultra-sincere, folk-inspired Florida punks Against Me!, but do not believe what your eyes -- limited as they are to the mere visual realm -- tell you. This band of ersatz ranters is not the Against Me! we have come to know over the past decade.

How can we recognize the impostors? Trust the auditory evidence. Consult our extensive reference files, such as the series of albums between 2002's Reinventing Axl Rose and 2005's As the Eternal Cowboy. These records flipped easily between acoustic and electric, every note naked, direct, and in-the-flesh, with frontman Tom Gabel's voice naturally overdriven with emotion as he decried charlatanism and falsity in every form. Even the band's relatively glossy major-label debut, 2007's New Wave -- simultaneously ballyhooed by the MSM as a bracing mainstream-rock record and pooh-poohed by trad-punk gatekeepers as an over-produced sellout -- was still recognizable as a product of the Gabel brain, obsessed as it was with castigating superficial musicians and bemoaning soulless American culture.

But one listen to the new White Crosses will convince even the least savvy listener: this is clearly not the same Gabel. The vocals are wiped clean of nearly all expressivity. The instruments sound as filtered and untouchable as light from a distant star cluster, their color spectrum reduced to various shades of beige. And some of the lyrical sentiments (e.g., "I Was a Teenage Anarchist") denounce all previous political statements so strongly that one simply must believe Gabel's heart has been forcibly swapped for a synthetic duplicate. With its artificially processed exterior and calculated reversal of emotion, White Crosses represents the latest advance in Stepford Music, as far removed from prior Against Me! records as Starship's "We Built This City" was from Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit." It's almost wholly unrecognizable. 

Ladies and gentlemen, we may be witnessing the birth of an entirely new organism. This is DNA mutation of the most extreme (dis)order, rendering all previous generations of the Against Me! genome null and void. It's simultaneously frightening and fascinating. 
But in spite of its seemingly benign facade, one must always be alert for sinister motives hidden behind the friendly new Gabel face. You are advised to keep a sharp eye peeled -- and perhaps an even sharper pitchfork nearby -- in case the band tries to shapeshift into, say, Nickelback. In the meantime, keep calm and continue enjoying the Pod-punk concert as if everything were entirely normal.

As for the real, original Tom Gabel? Let's hope he doesn't try to visit San Francisco while his Pod replacement is here. Everyone knows Pod People have terrifying ways of descrying the unassimilated....

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John Graham


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