Appeal to Reason
There are albums that can take a dozen visits to sink in, and then there are the ones that are as immediate as an adrenaline shot to the heart. Rise Against’s Appeal to Reason is one of the latter.
From the first chords of the quintessential, lapel-grabbing opening track, “Collapse (Post-Amerika),” the band’s fifth studio release is fit to bursting with the impossibly catchy punk rock upon which Chicago has built a solid reputation, yet this release finds their sound expanding. The Rise Against that fans have held dear to their hearts for nearly a decade may be evolving into a full-fledged rock band, but their purity of vision is once more captured with the help of producer Bill Stevenson. The four-chord choruses are still there, though colored ever so slightly with the occasional metal riff thanks, in part, to the addition of new guitarist Zach Blair who did a three-year stint as Flattus Maximus in Gwar! Frontman Tim Mcllrath’s tongue-tangling lyrics still manage to hug the curb between angry revolutionary and romantic visionary without ever losing their sincerity or sing-ability. At the heart of it all is a band that has continued in the foot steps of Bad Religion.
While Rise Against continues up the escalator to mainstream success, the band not only stays true to its voice, but hints at feelings of trepidation toward the idea of getting too popular. The carousel-flavored punk track “Entertainment” talks about the downside of fame from the perspective of the claustrophobic performer who’s being told what to do, what to say, where to be, and when to be there. The theme recurs on “Audience of One” when Mcllrath’s enigmatic words paint a nostalgic picture of the time we all can remember, before the responsibilities of a time-consuming job made us all plow through life in overdrive.
In the midst of all of the album’s radio-friendly punk rock hits there sits a heart-wrenching acoustic song called “Hero of War.” Inspired by the documentary The Ground Truth, the song compiles various stories of soldiers’ experiences of going to, serving in, and returning home from the Iraq War. It’s a gorgeous and sensitive protest song that may surprise a lot of fans who are used to Mcllrath’s aggressive and angry approach to the topic of war and government on previous releases. It’s also the album’s crown jewel.
In keeping with the band’s ever present activism, thought provoking quotes from Gandhi, Thoreau, Picasso, and the Declaration of Independence frame the lyrics inside the album’s booklet, and the entire package is printed with vegetable inks on recycled paper.
Rise Against: www.riseagainst.com