Counterpunch have made the album that Rise Against should be making.
Hailing from Chicago, this quartet’s sophomore full-length has a lot going for it. These 13 songs embody all that is good in the skatepunk/melodic hardcore/pop-punk/whatever genre: stunning vocal interplay delivering the powerful lyrics; intricate guitar work backed up by a talented rhythm section; and hey, the cover art’s nice too.
Yeah, this album is indeed pretty darn good. From the opener “Heroes & Ghosts” with its infectious chorus, to the ballad-ish “So Long” that emotionally concludes the record, there is a lot to savour. Lyrically, this band hits the spot almost every time, whether they’re focusing on political strife or personal strife. “A Raven’s Curse” is insightfully delivered, with the observation “You can save the world a million times, but get credit for the fall.” “When the Curtains Close” is possibly the pinnacle of the album, with its downcast chorus conveyed in a sonically uplifting manner.
Ahh, and now we come to the contentious issue. The major drawback to Counterpunch’s debut album was the interestingly titled "Al Qaeda Hijacked My Mom's Poussoir", which was quite frankly terrible lyrically. On Dying to Exonerate the World, looking at the lyrics to “And Everybody’s Right”, you could be forgiven for thinking that the band had once more strayed too far into immaturity. Hell, the chorus uses the word “asshole” seven times. That’s a septet of assholes right there. But in fact, the song is delivered passionately and seriously, and it works. The unexpected trombone and trumpet duet definitely plays a part in pulling this song off.
Yes, diversity is found aplenty on this album. From the pop-punk anthem “Constraints and Anchors” to the aggressive and melodramatic “A Raven’s Curse”, Counterpunch have managed to reinvigorate the skatepunk/melodic hardcore/pop-punk/whatever genre with Dying to Exonerate the World.
Sure, at 50 minutes the album is on the long side, and a couple of the tracks don’t necessitate lasting over four minutes. “High Tide for Internal Strife” wholly justifies its four-minute running time, though; the vocal work at the climax is fantastic.
Other criticisms? Well, “Sweet and Sour” maybe veers too close to the sweet side, especially in the chorus, and “Scenester Kids” is a short song that condemns scene kids but feels tacked on and unnecessary. Indubitably, though, this is a terrific album.
Pay attention, Rise Against.