Home > In review > In Review: Tom Gabel – Heart Burns

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.


Tom Gabel – Cowards Sing At Night

  1. Noonan
    October 28, 2008 at 6:21 am

    Wow… you can take the time to write a review about this album but not to listen to some Against Me!. If you like Anti-Folk, or Folk-Punk, check out AM! Really a great band…. Start with ” Reinventing Axel Rose”.

  2. October 28, 2008 at 6:06 pm

    yahh dude, get yer shit straight.
    Against Me! started out just Tom Gabel with an acoustic guitar. hahah, and you dismiss them as skater punk? you sound like a jackass. You should work on the whole research thing..

  3. October 28, 2008 at 6:26 pm

    I agree. AM! is an awesome band. 😀

  4. joel
    October 28, 2008 at 7:47 pm

    yeh this is a pretty ignorant review, though you are a critic and it’s your job. So, if you are going to harp on the band you should probably at least listen to them first.

  5. Joe the Plum
    October 28, 2008 at 10:24 pm

    this is the worst review of any album I’ve ever read. If you are going to claim to review music, do some research on one of the most important punk bands of the past 10 years, Against Me!…….Billy Bragg on Atticus is the most bull shit categorization without any past knowledge I’ve ever read. Go jerk off to some Green Day.

  6. October 29, 2008 at 12:51 am

    I feel like in order to write a review about someone and their music (especially someone like Tom fucking Gabel) you could get a little bit more information beforehand. You sound like a real jackass comparing Against Me! to “some skater shit”. However, I’m almost positive if you would have previously listened to some Against Me!, this “review” wouldn’t even exist. If you finally do listen to some of their music, you will find that Tom Gabel’s “Heart Burns” is not a far cry from the band’s music. Thank you for your time.

  7. Seth
    October 29, 2008 at 4:30 am

    I love when reviewers try so hard to come off as cynical and jaded but they just end up looking like uninformed jackasses. I’m not saying this album is life-changing or anything, because it’s not. It is good, however, and this review is just one big joke. Anti-folk? This is a solo album by a punk rocker. Period.

  8. Maria Smedstad
    October 29, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    You sound like a jackass, though you are a critic and it’s your job. skater punk is the most bull shit categorization without any past knowledge I’ve ever read. Go jerk off to some Billy Bragg. Period. You sound like a real jackass. AM! is really a great band. Thank you for your time.

  9. Garrett B
    October 29, 2008 at 10:36 pm

    Who the fuck are you and how in the world could you feel that this is a legitimate review? Apparently the lead singer of Against Me!??? Seriously??? AM! and Tom have over 10 years of history… do your fucking homework.

  10. mendy
    June 4, 2010 at 8:47 am

    i liked your review and i think “billy bragg in atticus” is hilarious, although i totally worship billy bragg and consider tom gabel quite a fine fellow 🙂
    i do also think against me! is not a far cry from antifolk, but note: they’re not from new york 😉

    personally, I didn’t like heart burns because of the ugly drum computer. if am! were antifolk, that might have sounded good in an artsy-fartsy weirdo kind of way.
    but what i guess is the difference between AM! and antifolk, is that AM! always wanted to be punkrockers but only had acoustic guitars in the beginning. when they were able to afford decent instruments they maintained their simple punkrock/traditional american folksong – approach to music. antifolk on the other side means having been a punk, or lived after ‘main principles, which includes d.i.y., listening to hardcore etc. homerecording, which is d.i.y., works much better with a simple instrumentation, so this is what we’ve got. plus, i guess the antifolk scene evolved as the folk scene degenerated into “art folk” or whatever, with cellos & stuff, the same as the rock scene in ’77.

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