Rise Against Lobs Metaphorical Bombs
Rise Against is used to being misunderstood.
To begin with, the group is widely tagged as a political band, a label that bassist Joe Principe says is too limited for the lyrics that singer/guitarist Tim McIlrath writes.
"I kind of like to say it's more like we're socially aware," Principe says. "Tim, the way he writes is very broad. He has political songs, because he writes all of the lyrics, and then he also has social songs and even songs about his personal relationships. That's why I don't think we like to be pigeonholed as a political band."
Some even consider Rise Against a leftist or radical band, a label that Principe can only guess is a product of jumping to a conclusion.
"I think they (observers) kind of make up their own minds when they hear the name Rise Against," he says. "I guess it could lend itself to something like that (being tagged leftist). But also, I think, I guess it boils down to those types of people not totally giving us a chance and not listening to what he's singing about. I don't feel like it's a very fair judgment.
"Even Tim has said that his lyrics, if you listen to what he's singing about, it's common sense," Principe adds. "I think the issues he addresses-it's not that he's force-feeding anything. He's just stating facts on what's wrong with the world. At least that's how I view it."
That's not to say that the band is against ruffling a few feathers here and there. Principe says he and his band mates were fully expecting to cause a commotion with the video for "Re-Education (Through Labor)," the first single from the band's latest CD, Appeal To Reason.
One set of sequences in particular seems intentionally designed to flag controversy. As the rocking track plays in the background, a variety of young men and women plant what appear to be bombs around a city.
The song speaks to the feeling many young people have that they have limited career opportunities in today's market and have to work harder than ever just to make ends meet. The bomb-planting sequence is meant as a visual metaphor for tearing apart the current system, but Principe says he prepared himself for criticism that the video advocates violence. Even some of his family took away that message.
"They didn't quite grasp the whole picture," Principe says. "They just saw the bombs. They're like, 'Oh my god, are they terrorists or are they anarchists? What's going on here?' I'm like, 'No, no, you have to look at this and listen to what he (McIlrath) is singing about.' I think that's fine. We're more than happy to explain the video to people who missed it, but that's not the intent. It's not like we're condoning violence. It's metaphorical."
Principe hopes Appeal To Reason will also cause a commotion strictly for its musical appeal. So far, the signs are encouraging. "Re-Education (Through Labor)" has cracked the top five on Billboard magazine's "Hot Modern Rock" singles chart, and the album peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200.
As with previous Rise Against albums, Appeal To Reason mixes hard-charging punkish tracks like "Collapse" and "Kotov Syndrome" with more straight-ahead rockers like "Long Forgotten Sons" and "The Strength To Go On." Much of the album balances both punk and traditional rock elements, making Appeal To Reason Rise Against's most diverse and tuneful effort yet.
As the group begins the touring cycle behind Appeal To Reason, Principe says the band is having a hard time resisting the temptation to demonstrate the musical range of the new album by playing most of it at their concerts, but he knows fans want to hear familiar earlier material, too.
"It's tough because we love the new album and we want to play a lot of those songs, but we also want to try and incorporate some songs off of our first record (The Unraveling)," he says. "We haven't played songs off of The Unraveling in a long, long time … We're trying to be fair about it and do something from every record."
Rise Against headlines an 8 p.m. show at the Rave on Monday, Nov. 17, with Alkaline Trio, Thrice and The Gaslight Anthem.