ALBUM REVIEW: Rise Against – Nowhere Generation
Photo Credit: Jason Siegel
Resonance through the medium of music is a difficult thing to capture decades down the line in a band’s career, but with every new record from punk-rock giants Rise Against, the profound impact of their unapologetic, socially conscious message, mixed with their melodic punk-rock sound only gets louder, stronger and more powerful than the previous. From sophomore album Revolutions Per Minute, which ignited the raging political fire inside Rise Against, to the animal rights and environmentalist ethos on the band’s breakthrough record Siren Song Of The Counterculture, the humanitarianism that heavily infiltrates fifth full-length Appeal To Reason, and to the outspoken economical social commentary that constitutes their sixth studio effort Endgame, each album connects, relates and strikes with its urgent subject matters.
Now on album number nine, Nowhere Generation, Rise Against’s voice is turned up tenfold. The record takes a lyrical deep dive into the promise of The American Dream’s ideals, that Millennials, Gen Y’s and Gen Z’s aim to aspire to in the chase for life changing desires. The band turn the tables on the record, with their blazing blend of aggressive alternative rock and raging punk. Its straightforward songwriting calls out big corporations for stacking up the social, economical and political deck against the younger generations of society, in the chase for the unrealistic ambitions that The American Dream dares to misleadingly offer.
Opener The Numbers taps into the level of mass disruption and revolt that is resorted to, as a direct result of the corrupt actions of the privileged few and the people in charge of politics. “They have the power/but we have the numbers now,” sings vocalist Tim McIlrath in the song’s empowering chorus – a call to arms to the normal people, who actually hold all the power to rise up for collective change and rightfully rebel against the all too often injustices. Supported by a snippet of L’Internationale in its introduction, marching drums, raging guitar riffs and protest imagery by The American Activist Indecline in the music video, The Numbers is an epic five minute anthem that defies societal norms and strives for the fact that even in the age of civil unrest and political uncertainty, that strength can be found in numbers.
Second and seventh songs Sudden Urge and Monarch are both pure punk-rock belters that brim with sonic intensity. Sudden Urge emphasises the aggressive sound, catchy vocal hooks and rapid tempos Rise Against are renowned for. Attacking guitars, explosive drums and full throttle vocals call to completely cease outdated systematic failures, for them to crash and burn “like the fourth of July”.
Similarly, seventh song Monarch shares this same sound, as the track is a massive fast and furious melodic hardcore tune that takes on the frentic pace of singles such as Savior. From Zach Blair’s breakneck riffs, to Brandon Barnes’ bombastic drum beat and the shoutable vocals in its chorus, before the bridge takes a brief breather, Monarch is ready made to be in the same relentless punk-rock class as Savior.
Singles Nowhere Generation, Talking To Ourselves and Broken Dreams Inc. follow on from Sudden Urge. The first, Nowhere Generation, also the album’s title-track, is a song where Rise Against represent the underestimated and underrated youth, otherwise coined as the so-called snowflake generation. “We are the nowhere generation/We are the kids that no one wants/We are a credible threat to the ruled you set/A cause to be alarmed,” sings McIlrath in the song’s rousing chorus, with a fired up emotional tone and genuine grit to the resilient message being portrayed throughout the stirring anthem, scattered with punchy riffs and a rising rhythm to match.
Latest single Talking To Ourselves takes a U-turn from the pounding punk-rock of its predecessors, for a song with a pop swayed candour. Sonically, the more mellowed vocals and tuneful harmonies provide the song with its pop sensibilities, whilst lyrically the core statement is for individuals to identify a common ground with each other, lending a listening ear to those who demand to be heard loud and clear. A far cry from the politically charged lyricism that makes up most of the band’s back catalogue, but Talking To Ourselves is a prime example of this point of view that Rise Against aren’t just this radical band, but a group who manages to find a middle ground between the personal and the political.
Back with a bang with their first track in three years, the album’s first single Broken Dreams Inc. is directly inspired by The American Dream. The song speaks up on behalf of the US citizens without the money, the power or the fame of the upper class in society’s hierarchy, how they have to work doubly as hard to achieve anything remotely attainable and successful in comparison to their privileged counterparts – something the record is greatly influenced by to take a stand on.
On the opposite end of Rise Against‘s spectrum of sounds, stripped-back acoustic ballad Forfeit treads the same beautifully simplistic path of songs such as Hero Of War, People Live Here and Swing Life Away. Accompanied by swelling strings, McIlrath’s tone is heartbreakingly raw and pained with wounded emotion, as he promises to “Not give up on you”. An acoustic rock weeper, Forfeit is a slowed down mid-album gut-wrencher, that lacks no less power that its previous up-tempo tracks.
Sounds Like is a blazing bass driven track, which goes through the motions of waiting in an unsettled period of limbo in anticipation for a little bit of light and optimism. Joe Principie’s bass that opens the song is full of rich body and depth, as rolling drums and short, sharp guitar riffs join. Complete with a chorus that contemplates the unpredictability of the future, “So we close our eyes and wait for something better/Not knowing what we’re even waiting for,” and a pure punk breakdown, Sounds Like is a sign of the times in an age of political uncertainty and social unrest.
As long time vegetarians, straight-edge vegans and pro-animal and environmental activists, Rise Against know a thing or two when it comes to crafting a conscious song on these subject matters – and Sooner or Later is no exception. An environmentalist’s dream track, it takes the imagery of climate destruction visually exhibited in The Sufferer & The Witness’ Ready To Fall and transforms them into a lyrically dark track, not just about the treatment of planet earth, but the treatment of the humanity that inhabits it when indiscrimination and inequality are still present in society. Sonically light with catchy pop choruses and lyrically heavy with a looming sense of doom, if the message in Sooner or Later wasn’t made clear enough, then take it from McIlrath when his hardcore screams state that “Our precious time is running out”.
Whilst Middle of a Dream is a monstrous track that proves Rise Against‘s prowess for explosive punk bangers, closing track Rules of Play is a steady moving rock song that has the power to connect people, instead of being segregated and separated in a politically divided world, ending Nowhere Generation on optimistic terms.
As a ninth album, Rise Against’s Nowhere Generation still generates the same powerfully attacking punk-rock sound from their back catalogue, if not a little more muted and melodious. Whilst the album’s title suggests pessimistic attitudes, that all hope is lost in the modern day era of a current climate catastrophe, systematic capitalism and social and political movements, delving deep into the eleven tracks the opposite applies. Nowhere Generation is about taking inspiration from these issues, but it’s also about having cautious optimism, spurred on by the young generation of fans that makes up the front row of Rise Against shows, determined to demand change for the future. Nowhere Generation gives them a place to connect and voice their concerns, on the best record Rise Against have released in years.
Standout Tracks: The Numbers, Sudden Urge, Talking To Ourselves, Nowhere Generation, Broken Dreams Inc, Monarch
For Fans Of: AFI, Anti-Flag, Bad Religion
Written by: Katie Conway-Flood