2017 has been a bewildering year for social and political change. There have been so many moments across the world where accepted norms and values have changed and transformed into things we would never have expected. It is therefore timely that my favorite pop punk band, Rise Against, have elected to release their latest album in this self-same year.
Wolves is a masterpiece. Timeless and accessible, but with teeth and lots of attitude, it is a record that moves you and makes you restless, filling you with hope and fear at the same time.
For readers who have never heard of Rise Against, they are a Chicago four-piece who thrive on thoughtful political pop punk and who have a large and dedicated fan base over the course of their career. They transformed from a metalcore band to a more melodious and anthem-wielding punk band and are brilliant playing high energy rock.
This album is their first since 2014’s The Black Market, which was an amazing collection of introspective and political songs. The template remains for Wolves and, like all good bands, they retain a sound that is all their own with great energy, emotion, and melody. Wolves is an absolute stormer from start to finish.
The album flows along with optimism and a great deal of anger too. The emotional rawness of songs such as “Welcome To The Breakdown” mixes with the more positive “Politics Of Love“.
Make no mistake, this album may not find much favor with supporters of the current US President, but that is the beauty of free speech. The band’s disappointment with the 2016 election is clearly heard with the song “How Many Walls“, a none too subtle reference to the whole Mexican border issue.
Highlights include “The Violence” and the thoughtful “Far From Perfect“, which asks us to love each other whatever our imperfections. McIlrath is a singer who has power, soul, and sass in his voice and is perfect for this type of rock. The guitar work of Blair is snappy and efficient with much of the aforementioned melody. Brandon Barnes is a beast behind the kit and drives the band forward. However, the real star on this album is Joe Principe, whose bass playing is stellar. He is the heart of the band, with his playing reminding me of Frank Bello in Anthrax. All over the album, Principe plays his ass off, especially on “Parts Per Million“, where he drives it along almost solo.
My favorite track on this phenomenal collection has to be “Politics Of Love“, which borrows liberally (sic) from REM‘s “Orange Crush“. It passes the driving test, as my journeys to work can attest to…Fast man.
Anyway, for me, this is my favorite album of the year so far. Many of you may not be familiar with Rise Against, but if you like great songs with power and melody and humanity, get listening…Five stars from me.