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CD REVIEW Searching for a Former Clarity:Against Me!

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Searching for a Former Clarity:Against Me!

One press release states that the only constant with Against Me is redefinition. Fans become bored when their beloved groups descend into a Jack Johnson fashion of mediocrity by remaking the same album over and over. Though Searching for a Former Clarity certainly sounds fresh, it wouldn't be too difficult to imagine songs from 2003's As the Eternal Cowboy fitting into the album, or vice versa. Against Me doesn't quite redefine. Regardless, Searching is a top-notch punk record.

On As the Eternal Cowboy, Against Me stirred a delicious mix of ingredients--a gritty punk rock sensibility, a folksy anchor and fist-pumping, sing along choruses ­to create one of my favorite punk albums. Perhaps wisely, the band chose not to reinvent themselves with new ingredients, but rather cooked the old ingredients longer and with more heat for Searching. The result is 14 tracks encompassing all we love about the band, even as they surprise us.

There are a few tracks, such as the Bush-bashing "From Her Lips to God's Ears," that burst with an urgency and energy that replaces a playfulness on similar songs from the past. The band screeches "Condoleezza!" as lead singer Tom Gabel accusingly asks, "What are we gonna do now?"

When the band mellows out on "Searching for a Former Clarity," Gabel grabs hold of the opportunity to achieve an intimacy seldom heard in punk rock, showing off his rough, but rich voice.

Other tunes, like "Violence" and "Justin," are similarly strong. While listening to Searching, however, I was wishing that it was shorter. None of the songs are awful, but most begin to play like filler in the midst of 14 others. Short and sweet would have been better, and though this album manages to escape the mediocre label, it wanders dangerously close.