Rise Against - Endgame

Album cover
Punk, Rock
Interscope Records
Rise Against
Endgame
Rise Against - Endgame Review rating:
4
User rating:
Average: 3.9 (9 votes)

When they signed with Geffen in 2003, many expected Rise Against to tread a well-traveled course—one in which, for four or five years, the band would release records that, one by one, distanced themselves from the palpable passion that earned them critical acclaim in the underground, after which the A&R rep that courted them—their only advocate—would be absorbed by some other appendage of the parent company (or laid off altogether) and the band would be spit out by the mainstream machine, thankful for their experience, but without the rights to their own records. It's the same old story, isn't it?

Except, four albums and eight years later, Rise Against hasn't succumbed to this cliché. The band has remained on their major label, becoming more popular than almost any modern American punk-rock band, and managed to maintain the explosive essence that made them meaningful when they were still playing bowling alleys in Chicago at the turn of the millennium. Endgame, Rise Against's sixth full-length, doesn't sacrifice their thoughtful, poetic take on politics for this popularity and, for the most part, preserves the punch that inspires audience members to lose themselves in the madness of a pit.

Side A of Endgame starts with “Architects”, an energetic and galloping track that shows the band at their best. After a rising transition from verse to chorus, vocalist Tim McIlrath's lyrics strike at their full rhetorical force, asking, “Do you care to be the layer of the bricks that seal your fate / or would you rather be the architect of what we might create?” These sorts of inspirational, positive lines are the reason why Rise Against can appeal simultaneously to the political-minded and the pop-oriented; they are general enough move listeners to make an impact in whatever way they can, but don't necessarily ask them to throw a rock through a Starbucks storefront. Of course, one can't help but wonder about his intent when, during a bridge driven by the rhythmic throb of bassist Joe Principe's trademark clank, he belts, “Don't you remember when we were young / and we wanted to set the world on fire?”, lines lifted almost word-for-word from Against Me!'s “I Was a Teenage Anarchist”, and what McIlrath means when he follows with, “Because I'm still am, and I still do.”

“Architects” sets the bar for the four tracks that follow, including the first single “Help Is On the Way”, whose lyrics are as thought-provoking as they are poignant. The song eventually ventures towards a stirring, halftime bridge that, with the help of a curtain of dark chords and a wall of “woahs,” evokes the sensation of seeing someone abandoned on their rooftop at the peak Hurricane Katrina. Later, “Disparity by Design”, a song that speaks on behalf of the homeless, and “Satellites” are lively tracks that keep Endgames engaging.

It's at the end of side A that the record takes a turn in another direction. “Midnight Hands” loses sight of the straight-ahead punk-rock that Rise Against does so well; instead, each verse is burdened by a bluesy swagger and spineless sway during each chorus. Two tracks later, “Broken Mirrors” seems to suffer from a similar mood shift. During pre-choruses and bridges, these songs attempt to return to form, but the energy that makes Endgame so exciting at its start seems to evaporate; even spirited tracks such as “This Is Letting Go” and “Survivor's Guilt” seem to lose something—an urgency, maybe or an edge—just being on the record's second side.

There's something to be said, though, about the energy that makes up most of Endgames. At this point, it would be easy for Rise Against to pander to the pre-teen fans that frequent Warped Tours across the country; to dilute their politics with songs that bewail the woes of growing up white and entitled; to slow down their sound, clean up their chords, add a keyboard, and allow their punk-rock credibility to crumble. Despite the one or two sections of one or two tracks that weigh the record down, Endgames is consistent with 2003's Revolutions Per Minute and 2006's The Sufferer & the Witness, which serves as evidence that, mainstream or not, Rise Against is right where they should be.

1. Architects
2. Help Is On The Way
3. Make It Stop (September's Children)
4. Disparity By Design
5. Satellite
6. Midnight Hands
7. Survivor Guilt
8. Broken MIrrors
9. Wait For Me
10. A Gentleman's Coup
11. This Is Letting Go
12. Endgame

Rise Against is a punk rock band from Chicago, Illinois. Formed in 1999, and originally performing under the name Transistor Revolt, they released a self-produced demo entitled Transistor Revolt in 2000, a year before signing with Fat Wreck Chords to release their first two albums, The Unraveling in 2001, and Revolutions Per Minute in 2003. They later switched to Dreamworks Records and recorded their album Siren Song of the Counter Culture. ... read more

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