While politics and music are both ever-changing landscapes, Rise Against can always be counted on to consistently bring the two together in a raucous, eloquent fashion. Across their eighteen-year career, they’ve brought issues like worrying suicide rates in gay teenagers, school shootings and the impact US consumerism has on third world countries to the attention of rock fans, young or otherwise, everywhere. And the albums they make never seem to lose their potency in terms of these messages – just look at People Live Here, the clear standout from their 2014 record The Black Market that it’s simply impossible not to feel anything for.
New record Wolves probably has the most potency if you’re diving into Rise Against’s brand of protest music for the first time. If not, this is just more of the same. That’s not to say that the songs are any worse than usual or their concept has lost any of the weight they’ve carried and expressed so well over the years – they’re just so quintessentially Rise Against that the whole record feels all too familiar. It helps that musically, they’ve struck the balance between their rougher, punkier guise and their more mainstream-leaning qualities demonstrated in their last few records. As usual, Tim McIlrath steals the show with his raspy, powerful vocals throughout, and he gets across both sides of Rise Against’s musical personas with equal conviction. The rabble-rousing earworm choruses of Bullshit and The Violence go well with fist-pumping call to arms Welcome To The Breakdown and the beefy riff in closer Miracle that more than shows that they still have the capacity to revisit their older days.
Of course, Rise Against do not shy away from the tough issues, and anyone expecting callouts of a certain Mr Trump will be proved absolutely correct. It doesn’t use phrases like “Cheeto” or anything more damning like many bands probably wouldn’t hesitate in using, but with songs like How Many Walls (“How many walls can you put up? / How many guns til you feel safe?”) and Welcome To The Breakdown (lamenting that those who voted for the President have been “played” and that “It’s a flock / You’re the sheep”) make their point clear enough. Other social issues are rife in this album’s lyrical content (obviously), and the scattering of love songs like House On Fire still make just as much of a mark as the political furore that takes most of the spotlight.
But as mentioned earlier, it’s the all-too-predictable Rise Against sound that drags this album down. It’s not even that suggesting a switch-up is in order to rejuvenate their career, because even hinting that they should do anything else is out of the question. This is Rise Against’s niche, and any other band attempting to do this same thing will ultimately pale in comparison. In terms of the band’s own discography, there isn’t really a standout single (Satellite from Endgame springs to mind immediately as a comparison point) that can fit onto their personal wall of achievements. Saying that though, this is a consistent and solid collection of tracks (the only lull is the slightly clichéd Far From Perfect). Other bands may be doing much more exciting things, but Wolves is keeping Rise Against up in the big leagues, and certainly in their own league when it comes to punk and politics.
For fans of: Anti-Flag, Green Day, Billy Talent
Words by Georgia Jackson
‘Wolves’ by Rise Against is released on 9th June on Virgin Records.