In Review: Tom Gabel – Heart Burns
When they finally get around to writing “The Complete Guide To The Musical 00s”, they probably won’t dedicate a whole chapter to antifolk. Which, on one hand is a shame, as when I was 19/20 it was easily my favourite genre going (I mourned Italy’s exit from the 2002 World Cup by going to a Joie Dead Blonde Girlfriend gig, the first MP3 I ever downloaded on a broadband connection I paid for was by Prewar Yardsale). On the other hand, however, it’s not a shame because the music from this genre was, with hindsight, all absolutely appalling.
It’s weird to think that the Moldy Peaches were the chart connex for this field, being as their contribution to pop culture since has rested less on antifolk’s ramshackle “it’s like punk, right, but we’ve got some acoustic guitars and shit” mantra, and more on the unbearing tweeness a heroin addict and an indie yuppie dude could stir up between them. Ah well.
Anyway, Tom Gabel’s debut solo album, “Heart Burns”, is some straight-up 2008 antifolk shit. Tom Gabel is, apparently, the lead singer of “Against Me!”, who I think are some skater shit, I dunno.
Regardless of who he actually is (and being as they were at one point signed to Fat Wreck Chords and have an exclamation mark in their name, I’m gonna guess Against Me! are horrific), “Heart Burns” is good. It’s what antifolk sounded like to me aged 20, one shouty guy and his “25 guitar chords you can learn today” booklet running down a list of issues. And here he manages to get through seven songs in 20 minutes, which is fantastic for a world where people have jobs to go to and Football Manager Live teams to coach.
“Cowards Sing At Night” is a hark back to 1960s “come home from the frontline soldier boy” tunes, but probably with some added MoveOn.org politics. “Anna Is A Stool Pigeon” sounds a lot like something off Green Day’s “Warning” album, which I am apparently alone in thinking is a high water mark for the past 10 years of mainstream rock. And “Harsh Realms” remains just the right side of The Levellers.
Sure, it’s some corny ass politickin’ over most of the tracks, and it might be possible to dismiss the entire album as “Billy Bragg in Atticus”, but right now, for the autumn, for the clock’s going back and Pret putting spinach in every single one of their soups, it’s pretty close to perfect. No guarantees you’ll want to hear it when spring comes around/you get bored of an Obama presidency four months in.
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