There's something special about an Against Me! show. They've managed to make every night I've seen them, the only night of my life that matters -- and hey, I've lost my virginity! Those who have seen their excellent DVD, We're Never Going Home, can also lay testament to the passion and excitement they seem able to deliver on a nightly basis.
Enter Americans Abroad!!! Against Me!!! Live in London!!!, the band's first live album, which follows three full-lengths and a handful of EPs and singles. Up until their latest remix fiasco (From Her Lips to God's Ears), I've stood in strong support of everything the Gainesville band has released, but to their credit it wasn't them who remixed it. However, with Live in London!!!, Against Me! opens themselves up to the easy to ask questions -- why do a live album? Why do it now?
Going back to the beginning, Against Me! unquestionably has one of the best live shows of any touring band. It would seem that they would naturally transfer well to a live album, and they do transfer well -- but just barely. The set list is fantastic, touching briefly on their latest offering, Searching for a Former Clarity, but focusing slightly more heavily on …As the Eternal Cowboy and …Is Reinventing Axl Rose. Nearly all of the band's best live songs make an appearance, including, "Those Anarcho Punks Are Mysterious," "Sink, Florida, Sink," and "We Laugh at Danger and Break All the Rules," "TSR," and "Cliché Guevara," which opens themselves for impassioned sing-alongs without fail every time. As with every time I've seen them play, stage banter is limited to little more than a "thank you."
Against Me! offers up a new song on the album, titled -- appropriately enough -- "Americans Abroad." It's a good song, too. While it follows in the vein of the material found on Searching, it grasps some of the urgency of their past songs, in part to its tempo and short length.
The quality of the recording also leaves little to be desired. It doesn't sound like a studio recording, but all the instruments and vocals come through as clear as you'd want. One aspect that doesn't come through, though, is the crowd level. If you strain your ears during the songs you can hear people shouting along, but you've really got to work for it. Of course, there are going to be those who say that they aren't paying to hear some random London dudes singing along to Against Me!, they're paying to hear Against Me!. Fair enough, but those who have seen Against Me! live know that standing neck and neck to some dude, covered in other people's sweat, pointing your finger in the air and shouting at the top of your lungs is as much a part of an Against Me! show as the band is. The average price of an Against Me! ticket is $10. Do yourself a favor and go catch them live.
That said, Live in London!!! makes a noble attempt at capturing the experience of Against Me! live; it's not its fault the project never stood a fair chance to do it perfectly.