Rise Against – Endgame (2011)

Posted: March 7, 2011 in Music

During the bridge of “Architects,” the opening track off Rise Against’s latest record, Endgame, frontman Tim McIlrath sings, “Don’t you remember when you were young / And you wanted to set the world on fire? / Somewhere deep down / I know you do.” One interpretation of this line is that McIlrath is singing about someone who lost a passion or a fire that they had when they were younger.

Well, when Rise Against were younger, they played aggressive, desperate and earnest punk music. Beginning with The Unraveling, through Revolutions Per Minute and Siren Song of the Counter Culture, and then with The Sufferer and the Witness, Rise Against was one of the biggest punk bands on the planet. The last-mentioned of those records spawned a couple of big hits and led into Appeal to Reason, which saw the band taking on a more accessible feel. Meanwhile, the band grew bigger than ever, headlining a tour with Rancid, a band that McIlrath called “the best punk band in the world” at a show in Orlando, as support.

But with Rise Against’s sixth studio album and second for DGC/Interscope, McIlrath and Co. seem as though they might have lost a bit of the passion or fire they had when they had more to prove. The record isn’t bad, it’s actually enjoyable. But the band has continued in its trend toward becoming more of a hard rock band and less of the punk icon it used to be. The moments where the band’s traditional punk sound comes through are fewer and further in between than on any of their other releases.

“Make It Stop (September’s Children)” is perhaps the best example of how much this band has changed. A delayed guitar and a melody provided by a chorus of children kick the track off, and the song is carried by the imagery McIlrath provides in his lyricism. At this point in the record, if you can manage to get by the fact that Rise Against may not be the same band they used to be, the record will open itself up. Instead of a gimmick, this song becomes an example of the way that radio-ready rock music should be written.

Maybe there isn’t a fist-pumping anthem like “Ready to Fall,” and maybe there isn’t a fire-breathing, mosh-inducing behemoth of a track like “State of the Union.” But looking at songs like “Disparity By Design,” “Broken Mirrors,” and “A Gentleman’s Coup,” it’s clear that this music isn’t watered down or condensed in any way. Sure, it’s more accessible, and it’s certainly more mainstream and less aggressive, but this is what Rise Against is writing, and the band is writing this music at a high level.

Nearly every track on Endgame fuses a catchy and memorable chorus with at least one part punk roots, making for a nice and even balance, however repetitive. McIlrath’s lyricism is certainly still a strong point, and his vocals carry the record like they have carried previous Rise Against releases. Songs like “Midnight Hands” still bring blood-curling screams and others like “Wait for Me” and “This Is Letting Go” show that Rise Against can slow things down a little without becoming forgettable.

A lot of Rise Against fans probably hoped that Appeal to Reason was a stray away from the band’s normal sound and that the group would return to form on Endgame. But rather than returning to their old form, the band solidifies an evolved style with this record. Rather than playing desperately, the band is proving that they deserve the attention they have been given. All bands grow up; punk bands won’t play purely punk rock forever. It happens in all genres, and as musicians evolve so does their music. Listeners are lucky that Rise Against can still create a worthwhile and entertaining record while their music moves beyond its origins.

01 Architects
02 Help is On the Way
03 Make It Stop (September’s Children)
04 Disparity By Design
05 Satellite
06 Midnight Hands
07 Survivor Guilt
08 Broken Mirrors
09 Wait For Me
10 A Gentlemen’s Coup
11 This is Letting Go
12 Endgame

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