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Melodic-punk band Rise Against's first record on a major label (Geffen) may be the most accessible when compared to those that came before, but it still manages to keep the raw elements that earned them a respectful following on the underground circuit in their early years. Siren Song Of The Counter Culture is an incredibly catchy and emotionally rewarding forty-minute experience.
This was actually the album that first introduced me to the artistic vibrancy of the Chicago-based band. Upon hearing 'Give It All', one of their most prominent songs, as the backing music to a random freerunning video on YouTube, I felt intrigued to hear more. So I picked up the CD for a few quid and have been hooked on the intelligent, heavy punk sound ever since.
You immediately begin to feel Rise's hardcore energy on the thrasy opening track 'State Of The Union'. This sets forth singer Tim McIlrath angrily delivering his socially-conscious lyrics atop of some fiery percussion and frantic chord strumming from fellow band members Brandon Barnes (drums), Joe Principle (bass) and Chris Chasse (guitar). ("If we're the flagship of peace and prosperity/ We're taking on water and about to fuckin' sink.")
This may well standout as the hardest of the twelve tracks, but there is an infectious sense of urgency that is carried right the way through to the bustling, Mark Twain-inspired 'Rumours Of My Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated'. In between, there's a lesson in war's harmful effects on health, habitat and culture ('Dancing For Rain'); a raw, first-person confession of a broken relationship ('Blood To Bleed'); and a call for the realization of individual aspirations, which we should each strive towards to bring a greater political change ('Life Less Frightening' and 'Tip The Scales').
My favourite track, though, is 'Paper Wings', which is a bittersweet tale of one person's decision to pursue their own path in life. This song is just phenomenal in its arousal of the human spirit via its prominent guitar riff and thought-provocative lyrics:
"Is this the life that you lead, or the life that's left for you?/ Will you take the road that's been laid out before you?/ Will we cross paths somewhere else tonight?"
Rebellers against anything appearing on a major label may complain that the band's melodious sound is at its most fetching here, but at least the song still manages to come across unfeigned in its subject matter. As if a statement for the whole album, the music is instantly pleasing without ever compromising the band's free thought, discontent and individualist punk values.
This is further evident on the eleventh track, 'Swing Life Away', an acoustic ballad concerned with living the simple life. This song depicts a beautifully calm atmosphere, where one person is able reminisce about good times with their closest friends, free from stress and anxiety in the uncertain world. The song is obviously distinguishable from the others on the album because it is performed acoustically, but there is still that liberal, anti-authoritarian attitude in the way it is delivered, which once again depicts the band's serious political consciousness.
Rise seem to have a fantastic natural talent for creating music that is delicate yet edgy at the same time. McIlrath, in particular, demonstrates that he is a passionate singer as well as a talented screamer throughout Sirens; another reason why the record is so accessible is his lyricism, which discerns change on both a personal and a political level. He manages to tap into the potential of the listener's mind whilst sharply criticising the large-scale bureaucracies. He shows great leadership, judgment and passion in the band's quest for positive change, inspiring the individual as well as human behaviour on a broader scale. The melodic rhythms of Brandon, Joe and Chris are brilliant, but Tim really steals the show on this album with his lyrics and delivery.
Having listened to Rise's entire discography excessively since I first heard this album, I can conclude that Siren Song is hardly a departure from their raw, early sound, as heard on The Unravelling (2001) and Revolutions Per Minute (2003), as some like to point out. The latter of the two said albums may still be the best of Rise's records, but one cannot deny that, as a band, they are progressing to world domination with a hardcore edge that remains, to date, uncompromised by their major label signing. This is still a fantastic album in its own right, even if it does get pigeon-holed with the work of watered-down, multi-platinum successes (per se Fall Out Boy).
So if you are one of those people that likes to criticise a band for "selling out" just because they have achieved some commercial recognition, then you have seriously misinterpreted the sincerity of Rise Against's commitment to politics and reviving the melodic, hardcore sound here. Sirens is just full with songs that are impressively energetic and full of heart, resulting in an ultimately riotous record, overall. I can only commend the band for their formidable effort and well-earned success.
(C) Andy Carrington, 2010.
Rise Against 3rd Album does not disappoint. The album is full of amazing songs with meaningful lyrics and powerful guitars and drums.
The song listing is as follows:
1. "State of the Union"
2. "The First Drop"
3. "Life Less Frightening"
4. "Paper Wings"
5. "Blood to Bleed"
6. "To Them These Streets Belong"
7. "Tip the Scales"
8. "Anywhere But Here"
9. "Give It All" - 2:50
10. "Dancing for Rain"
11. "Swing Life Away"
12. "Rumors of My Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated"
"State of the union" pretty much sets the atmosphere for the rest of the album. It blasts in with a loud guitar turning into a strong riff which will get you jumping instantly.
One feature in the album which I feel the band has great skill with is the bass guitar. Unlike other artists you are able to truly hear the bass. Songs such as "Life Less Frightening" feature amazing bass solos which really capture the mood the album is trying to create.
The album also features an acoustic song, "Swing Life Away". The guitar and lyrics in this song really flow together and is just an amazing song to listen to. Even if you aren't into the rock/punk genre I guarantee you will enjoy this piece of music.
Throughout the album the drums are a key element with interesting rhythms and powerful beats. One song in particular would be "Paper Wings" which is, in my opinion, the best song on the album. The drums really do aid the song as they flow with every other instrument instead of a steady beat.
The band is known for their lyrics with meanings behind them songs such as "give it all" has a slightly political meaning.
Rise against's aim is to open everyone's eyes and see that there are problems that can be solved by working together. The lyrics in the album get this across.
One problem might be the way the vocalist sings. In some parts of songs he will 'scream' the lyrics instead of singing them. This may put listeners off the album.
Overall I would strongly recommend listening to this amazing album. If not for the meanings behind the music then just for the music itself. It will get you jumping from the first song. You will not be disappointed with this album. There isn't really anything negative to say about the album itself. Well produced and mixed. Everything flows together to create powerful songs. Fans and newcomers to the band will not be disappointed.
If you've read my other reviews, you might know that Rise Against are my ultimate favourite band. Ever.
Siren Song of the Counter Culture was their third album to be released, and has some of their best songs on it.
I'll just pick out a few songs to write about, instead of a full song-by-song review.
State of the Union
Not one of my favourites in general, but it serves as a brilliant starter for the album. It succeeds in getting your heart going and perhaps moshing around your bedroom.
Life Less Frightening
One of my favourite Rise Against songs (of which there are many). Brilliant guitar riff, some surprisingly good backing vocals, and an excellent vocal melody.
Ditto from Life Less Frightening, with some really good drumming as well
Tip the Scales
A really good, loud, fast, heavy song.
Dancing For Rain
Nice acoustic intro. Things build up slowly to the first chorus, which sounds great. Perhaps a bit too slow for my liking, though.
Swing Life Away
Rise Against's acoustic song. Not for people who only like the punk of the rest of the album, but it's a great song if you're open minded about genres.
Siren Song of the Counter Culture is a great album overall, with some really great songs to get everyone jumping. I also like who it ends with Rumours of My Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated, as the chorus is quite upbeat, and makes me feel happy.
Even though most albums tend to have a couple of songs that let it down a bit, SSOTCC is full of good songs. Some of better than other, but none are outright bad. I honestly don't have much that I can say against this album. I love it.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 State Of The Union
2 First Drop
3 Life Less Frightening
4 Paper Wings
5 Blood To Bleed
6 To Them These Streets Belong
7 Tip The Scales
8 Anywhere But Here
9 Give It All
10 Dancing For Rain
11 Swing Life Away
12 Rumors Of My Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated