If you’re looking for a constant with Against Me!, it’s redefinition… and barely controlled expectation for what they’re going to do next. Without hearing a note, fans have plenty to be excited about with Searching for a Former Clarity, being that the band stepped into a new recording environment and was produced by the imaginative and impeccable J. Robbins (ex-Government Issue and Jawbox). For good reason, Searching for a Former Clarity is one of the most widely anticipated records of 2005.
The Against Me! of 2005 is very different from the band that started under the same name. Against Me! began in 1997 when seventeen-year-old Laura Jane Grace performed as a solo acoustic act, picking up shows whenever possible. From laundromats to bonfires, Laura began digging from the acoustic origins of protest music and re-igniting the fire of songs that don’t necessarily rely on volume for impact. In the process, she discovered a powerful voice.
Over the years, Against Me! went through several lineup changes. Laura remained the only constant. However, by 2001, the current four-piece gelled, intertwined, and began to grow together. Although the band continued to solidify Laura’s core of strong songwriting, to discount any member’s contribution to what Against Me! is today would be a disservice. With Warren on drums, Andrew on bass, and James on rhythm guitar, Against Me! is anything but a one-person band backed by session musicians. It’s complete band chemistry. Without one of the four, the band wouldn’t be the same.
Although based out of Gainesville, Florida, it’d be more true to say that since 2001 Against Me! has been a band of the highway systems. Their history can be found on the road, having been in near-constant motion the past five years, with tours of Japan, Australia, Canada, and Europe under their belts.
Here’s the math to their success: Write great songs. Record those songs. Play those songs worldwide. Make a bunch of t-shirts. Never wear shorts on stage. In 2002, the foursome recorded what many considered the best punk album of the year. Lesser bands would be tempted to say, “Hell, Reinventing Axl Rose was a fine album. Lots of folks liked it. It sold real well. Let’s redo it.” If you’re an active participant in life, the variables constantly change. One of the greatest challenges musicians face is how to remain true to themselves when their circumstances are drastically transformed. The result was 2003’s As the Eternal Cowboy, an album that presented a less blatant, more instantly personal version of Against Me! Searching for a Former Clarity continues in this spirit of re-evaluation. It’s nothing like you’ve heard from Against Me! in the past, but it’s instantly recognizable as them. It’s also the best album they’ve ever recorded. In a world that cares more about how things look and treats the contents of your mind as something to trick or ignore, it’s important to understand that Against Me! stands for something. It’s also important to understand that Against Me! just aren’t toeing anyone else’s line. We’re talking something universal and with more staying power, like music that’s rich and full of life: scars, spontaneous clapping, and mystery. Music that supercedes genre.
Against Me! approaches being a band with an honesty and directness that is rarely translated into popular music. It boils down to this: they’re just fully concerned with making the best music they can while staying true to who they are. Searching for a Former Clarity proves it.