Against Me! has experienced quite a rocky road through the punk scene. They were pretty much the last band to get hated on for “selling out” before people stopped caring about that. Even initially, they were dismissed by the punk scene because they played acoustic guitars. They even got called sellouts for going electric in 2002; a concern that was just as ridiculous as when Bob Dylan went through it in 1965. They got called sellouts for everything. Hell, they were called sellouts when they thought about signing to a major label. And, of course, once again when they eventually did sign to one. Yet, all the while, AM! has been consistently releasing music that pushes the boundaries of punk, while maintaining a very devoted fanbase, who remain diehard despite the many changes in the band’s lineup and sound. Today, we rank the albums of the band that no one wants to admit created folk punk. Oh, and spoiler alert: I’m a music snob who prefers the old stuff.
7. Shape Shift with Me (2016)
The latest Against Me! album, Shape Shift with Me, is a solid addition to the band’s catalog, but it suffers from an issue that many other alternative bands’ albums suffer from in their later years. They know their sound and their audience so well that newer releases often sound like a fanfic version of their own band.”Shape Shift with Me” has some great moments but this record feels pretty paint-by-numbers. But what do I know? I’ve only been listening to them since before you were born.
Play it again: “Boyfriend”
Skip it: “Suicide Bomber”
6. New Wave (2007)
Okay, let’s get this out of the way. Yes, this is probably their most critically and commercially successful release and, yes, this is probably the album that got you into the band. Unfortunately, this is a weak album in the context of AM!’s entire discography. It’s mostly mid-tempo songs that sound like a mix of punk and butt rock, which we’ll just call “Buttflap Rock.” The screams were dialed back to yells and the songs are structured and arranged in conventional ways that fail to showcase the best of what Against Me! has to offer. Or maybe I’m just still mad they signed to a major label.
Play it again: “Piss and Vinegar”
Skip it: “Animal”
5. Searching for a Former Clarity (2005)
This record shows a direct bridge between two distinct eras of Against Me!’s sound. Prior to 2005, the band’s songs tended to have an unconventional, almost freeform structure. Another aspect of their signature sound was having two rhythm guitars playing different parts overtop one another. “Searching for a Former Clarity” captures the band as they were shifting to a more conventional sound. Still better than New Wave though.
Play it again: “Even at Our Worst We’re Still Better Than Most (The Roller)”
Skip it: “Holy Shit!”
4. Transgender Dysphoria Blues (2014)
Lyrically, this album brings back the gut-wrenching honesty that made early Against Me! records draw in such a devoted fanbase. While recent AM! records spoke mostly on external topics like politics and the music industry, Transgender Dysphoria Blues is a return to form in digging deep inside oneself to pull out gems of brutal honesty and self-reflection. Plus, the band was no longer on a major label so it was okay for me to like it.
Play it again: Transgender Dysphoria Blues
Skip it: Osama bin Laden as the Crucified Christ
3. Against Me! As the Eternal Cowboy (2003)
The songs on this record were rushed. As a result, you have the accidental masterpiece that is The Eternal Cowboy. The songs are fast, loud, and short yet their structure is closer to jazz or prog rock at times. The album flows so well. The whole is absolutely greater than the sum of its parts. Also, check out their demo recording of this album. Ironically, if we were ranking that version, my “play it again” song would be Unsubstantiated Rumors Are Good Enough for Me to Base My Life Upon.
Play it again: “Rice and Bread”
Skip it: “Unsubstantiated Rumors Are Good Enough for Me to Base My Life Upon”
2. White Crosses (2010)
When it comes to this band’s ability to write more conventional music, White Crosses is far and away the best AM! release to date. The leads are memorable and catchy, the lyrics and vocals are compelling, and the polished production matches the music perfectly. Lyrically, Against Me! produced some of their best scream-along songs in almost a decade on this record. It was so good I was able to forgive that it came out on Sire Records.
Play it again: “Bamboo Bones”
Skip it: “Rapid Decompression”
Honorable Mentions: Crime as Forgiven by Against Me!, Against Me! EP, and The Disco Before the Breakdown (2000-2001)
If it were up to me, all of these EPs (along with “Vivida Vis!” and the “Against Me!” demo) would be tied for number one. However, the very strict guidelines that make up The Hard Times rankings system clearly dictate that all EPs, live albums, demos, and any bootleg recordings I made are ineligible for consideration. But go listen to these albums.
Play it again: “Tonight We’re Gonna Give it 35%” (Try to find the demo version that sounds like it was recorded in an airplane bathroom. It’s perfect)
Skip it: N/A, these albums are flawless
1. Against Me! Is Reinventing Axl Rose (2002)
From start to finish, “Reinventing Axl Rose” hits you with one iconic scream-along song after another. This transcendent punk album was lightyears ahead of its time. Plus, it’s the band’s only full-length release featuring Dustin Fridkin on bass and backing vocals. The way Dustin and Laura’s voices combine is indescribable and, even though the band released some great stuff after his departure, the loss of Dustin’s voice took away a lot of the power of Against Me!’s vocals. To me, this record is Against Me! at their best. And by that I mean I like that they were on No Idea Records at the time.
Play it again: “I Still Love You Julie”
Skip it: “Jordan’s First Choice”