Coming up with a list of Against Me!'s best songs is a tricky one: The punk band have changed their sounds over the years, but a common thread remains through all their work, whether it's the screamed basement-punk of early material or the slick rock of later years. They've won and lost fans along the way and throughout their almost 20 year career they've become one of the best punk bands of our time. Here's our tribute to some of their best material.
10. “Pints Of Guinness Make You Strong”
This song sums up early-era Against Me! perfectly: an unhinged vocal performance, a rowdy basement-gig vibe, rugged production and just enough melody to push it beyond basic protest punk to something more special. Also check out “We Laugh At Danger (And Break All The Rules)” to see what made this band so special from the beginning.
9. “Turn Those Clapping Hands Into Angry Balled Fists”
An early example of the band really nailing some good, catchy, and powerful songwriting dynamics, this late As The Eternal Cowboy (2003) cut just builds and builds and builds, and then Laura Jane Grace screams “I hate this stupid fucking dream beat” and it explodes. And every time I listen to it, it's just as powerful as the first time I heard it.
Transgender Dysphoria Blues (2014) was a much more harsh and heavier album than the band's previous two, but its best moments were when the melodies still shone through. “Dead Friend” is bested on the disc only by this excellent, concise, catchy punk rocker. With the drums pounding through excellent production, this song is lyrically strong and musically sturdy to the point of untouchable. Powerful punk rock in its most distilled form.
This song, from 2005’s Searching For A Former Clarity, takes the band's enthusiastic folk-punk of their first two albums but adds depth and maturity… as well as the great lyrics: “You know Justin? Well, Justin's dead/And Yahoo won't let his family have access to his email account.” As always, Grace manages to take completely lyric lines that absolutely should not work and make them completely work.
6. “From Her Lips To God's Ears (The Energizer)”
Few Against Me! songs rival this one as far as pure energy goes (and AM! has a lot of energy in their catalogue). Excellent lyrics, great vocal performance (right down to the back-up vocals), superb drumming… it's all here. The band rocks hard and fast in this song, which features lyrics directed to Condoleeza Rice (her first name basically is the song's chorus).
5. “I Was A Teenage Anarchist”
This one is noteworthy not just for being a perfect, compact catchy punk song, but for the daring lyrical confessions about growing up and changing your mind. Sounds simple enough, but sometimes punk rockers are pretty resistant to change, which is why this song sparked outrage (prompting Rise Against to counter with a lyric of their own on their next album). All that aside, this is one of their most popular songs, it’s easy to see why.
4. “Bamboo Bones”
This song, which closes off the excellent 2010 LP White Crosses, was the only song on that album that really let drummer George Rebelo (Hot Water Music) shine. And shine he does: his fills carry the song, his back-up vocals also coming through more than on the rest of the album, and the positive lyrics propel this to be one of the band’s most inspirational tunes. Gets the blood pumping every time.
3. “Thrash Unreal”
Things started getting a bit weird when I'd hear this song on the local cheeseball alt-rock station—but who could deny this song’s greatness? It deserves every bit of attention it got the band. Against Me! streamlined and changed their sound in a huge way on this album and the band suddenly became a slick rock machine, much to the chagrin of their old fans. But those that knew a great song when they heard it realized that “Thrash Unreal” represented the beginning of a great new era for Against Me! The same album's “Borne On The FM Waves Of The Heart” is another stunning example of the bold new directions the band were willing to go, while the gorgeous Replacements homage “Ache With Me” on White Crosses took it one step further.
2. “Searching For A Former Clarity”
The title track of the band's third album is not a pretty song; it's actually a very intense way to close the album. One of Laura Jane Grace's most intense set of lyrics, by the time the closing lines (“Let this be the end/let all be forgiven”) come around, both listener and band are drained. This is pure emotion set to music.
1. “Because Of The Shame”
The inclusion of this in the pole position will get as many people upset as the song itself did, as this is Against Me! at the height of their slick-rock phase. And it's a wonderfully catchy yet woefully grim tune, with the collision of those two tastes happening head-first at that odd chorus—which on paper looks absurdly clumsy, but when sung, sounds perfect. The vocals on the chorus sound piped in from my wildest fantasy of what a great song should sound like. Some may cringe at this song's utter perfection, but I just think it's, well, utterly perfect, being both wistful and motivational at the same time, with a simple, rockin' sound to boot. Give it a spin right now and just stay in awe of that chorus again: That's how you write a song. The band were announcing loud and proud that they had arrived at this place from the most unlikely of beginnings and they were here to do radio punk right, before going off to a decidedly different place (again) on their next album. What they left behind from this particular part of their journey is nothing less than a perfect encapsulation of what radio-friendly punk rock can be—which, as it turns out, is pretty incredible.