Laura Jane Grace - Heart Burns (Cover Artwork)

Laura Jane Grace

Laura Jane Grace: Heart BurnsHeart Burns (2008)
Warner Music Group

Reviewer Rating: 4
User Rating:

Contributed by: crackpotdemagoguecrackpotdemagogue
(others by this writer | submit your own)

It has been a couple of years now since Gabel and his band Against Me! done a Chumbawumba -- their major label debut, New Wave was received fairly well by mainstream music critics, but for many long-time fans of the band, their relationship with Gabel was over. Heartbreaks aside, whatever you make o.

It has been a couple of years now since Gabel and his band Against Me! done a Chumbawumba -- their major label debut, New Wave was received fairly well by mainstream music critics, but for many long-time fans of the band, their relationship with Gabel was over. Heartbreaks aside, whatever you make of Gabel's decision to join hands with a multinational corporation, he has -- at least musically -- redeemed himself with this, his latest offering: the Heart Burns EP.

Gabel's decision to release the EP under his own name is interesting, and without overanalyzing such a decision, it could be seen as an attempt by Gabel to distance himself, at least creatively, from the Against Me! brand. His desire to experiment with his music becomes immediately apparent as opener "Random Hearts" kicks off and we are greeted with a fistful of drum machine. I had assumed that the format for this release would be like The Acoustic EP -- but was refreshed to find that this was not so. While many members of the punk community openly wince at any form of electronic beat-making, as a fan of electropunk I have been conditioned to love it. "Random Hearts" is a song led heavily by its guitar-driven melody that builds up for each climatic chorus, with Gabel bringing the song to its conclusion as he sings "The only war you'll ever know is what you see in a movie, suburban TV babies, we share the same accent -- American disillusion -- we're in this together, random hearts that beat for each other, random hearts in a cruel cruel world."

There is a change of pace with the following track, "Conceptual Paths," which sees Gabel swap layered electric guitars for an acoustic and keys. The track is again held together by a simple drum beat and the minimalist format bodes well for a track that is led by a powerful set of lyrics.

"Cowards Sing at Night" sees the instrumentation stripped even further down, with Gabel returning to the simple one guitar, one vocal format where he is clearly at home. Current U.S. electoral hysteria has not missed Gabel, who uses this song to take a swipe at the man in a permanent 'war trance' -- John McCain -- who has seemingly built his entire campaign scaffold around the fact that he once served in Vietnam and was a P.O.W. during this time.

The acoustic and the percussion (this time not robotic) returns for "Amputations," which also includes ‚??gang vocals' and the first appearance of James Bowman on backings. A short but sweet foot-stomper, "Amputations" is essentially a protest song outraged at the idiocy of war that mourns the young, who, like cannon fodder, are enlisted to engage in imperialist warfare, where they face the horrors of conflict rather than the beauties of being young.

A full-band setup is present for "Anna Is a Stool Pigeon," which exudes a folk-rock vibe -- confirmed indeed by the presence of a harmonica. The song is held together by its lyrical content that re-tells the tale of the Sacramento Three, who were famously infiltrated and snitched upon by Anna, a ‚??provocateur' paid by the FBI.

The song with the widest array of instrumentation is sharply followed by the song with the least, which has Gabel take up the traditional folk format of just a lone acoustic guitar and voice. "Harsh Realms," a song that deals with the issue of alienation in the modern world, was portrayed in the corresponding video produced by Philippe Tremblay-Berberi through the use of the city as a backdrop -- a concrete jungle that never stops, always moving at lightning pace whether you like it or not; "It's a harsh realm: don't abandon me."

As the record reaches its conclusion, a heartbeat kicks in -- the backbone for "100 Years of War." A paranoid-sounding track that aches of a frustrated confusion and a feeling of powerlessness in a world seemingly void of any unified sense of humanity. A powerful sentiment that is articulated well by Gabel who has always excelled in his ability to express his emotion lyrically in such a context.

Despite initial reservations about this release, my expectations were shattered upon the first listen. For me, this is some of Gabel's best material since As the Eternal Cowboy. And while the two records are almost incomparable, there is an honesty and a truthfulness present on this set of songs that was so lacking on New Wave, and to an extent, on Searching for a Former Clarity. There is a feeling that this EP contains a passion that Gabel thought he had lost. Every song here wipes the floor with New Wave and one can only hope that Gabel continues to follow this creative path as opposed to the path he followed that led to the penning of "Stop!".


People who liked this also liked:
Against Me! - is Reinventing Axl RoseThe Lawrence Arms - Oh! Calcutta!The Gaslight Anthem - The '59 SoundAgainst Me! - As The Eternal CowboyThe Clash - London CallingAgainst Me! - Searching For A Former ClarityDillinger Four - C I V I L W A RAlkaline Trio - GoddamnitThe Gaslight Anthem - Sink or SwimThe Gaslight Anthem - Se√Īor and the Queen

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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
TheViz (October 8, 2009)

"Anyone who could honestly say anything Against Me has ever done is better than RAR is a joke account as far as I am concerned." -greenvandal

The songwriting on As The Eternal Cowboy kicks the shit out of Reinventing Axl Rose. That being said, the two are the band's best albums.

TheViz (October 8, 2009)

The first two tracks on this are terrible. "Cowards Sing at Night" picks it up, unfortunately the song was already irrelevant by the time the album was released. "Amputations" is weird and mediocre. "Anna is a Stool Pigeon" and "100 Years of War" are both solid songs, and "Harsh Realms" is one of the best songs he's ever written. I can't for the life of me comprehend why the two songs on the itunes release weren't on the actual album, the acoustic version of Random Hearts blows the original away, and "I Can't See You But I Know You're There" is easily my favorite song that Gabel's ever done solo, it's the real gem of the collection in my opinion.

SouthernLovin (February 4, 2009)

The iTunes release is better. Still, could have been much better. Live, though, the songs are great.

ifgabeldiesiwilldie (December 31, 2008)

this and the '59 sound are the best albums of the year no joke this is amazing

greenvandal (November 16, 2008)

Anyone who could honestly say anything Against Me has ever done is better than RAR is a joke account as far as I am concerned.

eastern_waste (November 9, 2008)

is "thisisjake" a new fake account?

thisisjake (November 3, 2008)

"Tom, people are saying that you sold out to Hollywood"

Tom: What does that even mean, man? Allen Ginseberg wrote that book.

The song Stop! by itself is better than all the tracks on Is Reinventing Axl Rose combined. Once this guy got a major label budget and a hit producer he really showed what he could do. Keep Rockin Tom!

denbez (November 2, 2008)

Based on Anna is a Stool Pigeon I would like to submit Mr. Tom Gabel for consideration to be awarded the title of Worst Lyricist in America.

edgar13 (November 2, 2008)

renewed faith in tom and more specifically against me!

p.s even if you dont like these songs on recording, in a live setting he really nails it.

schrutebucks (November 1, 2008)

I love this. Everything but Random Hearts is really good, and Anna Is A Stool Pidgeon is great. I think Amputations would have worked better in the style of Cowards Sing At Night, just electric guitar and nothing else. A very strong release from a talented dude who seems to have his lyrical ability back in order.

thirtyseconds (October 30, 2008)


greenvandal (October 30, 2008)

*sigh* I can't even listen to reinventing axle rose anymore. If I told 18 year old me that "Pints of Guiness" would inspire nothing but indifference in me one day, he would have punched me.

Why Tom? Why?

billl (October 30, 2008)

gets better with each listen. some great lyrics on this one

mattramone (October 30, 2008)

Average at best.

And Scott, not everyone is on a major label's mailing list. Shouldn't you be off writing "exclusive" all over everything?

NotPatriotic (October 30, 2008)

oh snap "stool pigeon"

NotPatriotic (October 30, 2008)

"Cowards sing at Night" is absolutely fantastic. Tom Gabel can still write some amazing shit. "Anna is a Pigeon Stool" could have been great, the lyrics are great, but the music is lacking. Definitely an interesting album.

givemeamuseumandillfillit (October 29, 2008)

An official leak is still a leak.

Call me old fashioned, but i think a reviewer should digest the full product. Yeah, i know alot of reviews are done (atleast by paper magazines) thanks web streams (that otherwise would go in print too late), but I still believe that the whole package should be reviewed on websites fueled by people who just love music.

And this guy still hasn't made a single song i like. And he's going solo, face it, every single opportunity that was proposed in the dvd is coming true.

Just...people won't give a fuck, omg table who?

Even Conor fucking Oberst is more tolerable than this guy.

youwinalemon (October 29, 2008)

"If you got the CD or vinyl (like I did this morning), you would see in the liner notes"

Or you could purchase it digitally, which I assume doesn't come with liner notes.

I hear there are a few people out there these days that do that.

kevinh (October 29, 2008)

Maybe I need more time, but I can't really get down with this. I was hoping against hope that this might be a return to the more stripped down, folky stylings he was known for in his heyday. Sadly, this seems more like a stripped down version of his rock star attempts. It's not terrible by any means, but it seems mostly disposable and somewhat contrived.

oskorei (October 29, 2008)

Don't really care for this e.p. Nothing on it really stands out as Gabel worthy

HOISTDATRAG (October 28, 2008)

The chorus of 100 Years of War alone makes this EP worth getting. Much better than expected, although Random Hearts is kind of annoying.

telegraphrocks (October 28, 2008)

Score's for double-posting without leaving a score.

Also, for garlic.

phelansegur (October 28, 2008)

Score is for Chuck Ragan on "Anna Is A Stool Pigeon."
He ALWAYS gets the full points from me ...

phelansegur (October 28, 2008)

Score is for Chuck Ragan on "Anna Is A Stool Pigeon."
He ALWAYS gets the full points from me ...

SloaneDaley (October 28, 2008)

first two songs sound like Tegan & Sara could totally rock them. Overall, I liked this way more than New Wave.

telegraphrocks (October 28, 2008)

This is good, but totally overshadowed (to me, at least) by the new Dead To Me and Tossers albums out today.
Those are ssooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo fucking good.
This is just regular good.

sXenester (October 28, 2008)

hey, scott, didn't cheap trick write a song about you?

"leak police" i think.

mikexdude (October 28, 2008)

Enough with leak talks, seriously. You don't know for sure he got it off that.

kidgotham (October 28, 2008)

Leak? There was a legal stream of this last week, posted from this site. While the reviewer made a mistake, calling him out, by insinuating he had a leaked version, was uncalled for.

Eitherway, the second half of this is pretty good. The first half, not so much.

maverick (October 28, 2008)

"Amputations," which also includes ‚??gang vocals‚?? and the first appearance of James Bowman on backings

Incorrect. This is what happens when you write reviews based off of internet leaks. If you got the CD or vinyl (like I did this morning), you would see in the liner notes that Matt Skiba is the one responsible for the backing vocals on "Amputations."

Also, for those who couldn't tell already, Chuck Ragan is the other voice on "Anna Is A Stool Pigeon."

This EP is all over the place thematically and stylistically. Not at all what I expected, and I'm a little let down. "Amputations" is a great song, though.


conebone69 (October 28, 2008)

I don't think it's bad by any stretch but I don't view it to be that great either.

Some decent tracks but nothing really stands out

In addition, I don't understand why "Nuclear Cowboys in an Age of Drift" was left off.

BigSnuff (October 28, 2008)

I didn't know Tom Gabel had such a hard on for Warren Zevon and drum machines. I do not like.

gotsmuch (October 28, 2008)

so what you're saying is, it wasn't as bad as you thought it'd be? as a reviewer you shouldn't go in with "expectations".

it sounds trite when i say the dude has gone hollywood, but it's true... there are people who want to do music for a living, and then there are people who want to be rockstars. i'd be more interested to hear the other dudes of against me! doing something without tom, rather than the other way around.

damo (October 28, 2008)

good review

reasonable EP. think it will be a grower

punkinohio (October 28, 2008)

Why this guy still has any legitamacy in music is beyond me. Hollywood Gable doing anything he can for $$$, good to see a solo album, progression for money.

jacknife737 (October 28, 2008)

Really enjoyed the review, well done.

And i really love the EP, although i was expecting it to be a bare-bones acoustic release, i was pleasantly surprised. The studio version of "Random Hearts" in particular is far superior to the Emo's bootleg version.

Score is for the review and EP.

IanIsSuperRad (October 28, 2008)

I really enjoy this ep. Makes me wish these were the songs that made it on to New Wave.

Good review too.

freesandwich (October 28, 2008)

i'm 24 and after a shitty breakup went from 180 to 166 pounds. i've stopped losing weight but i am still a little flabby. how can i harden up my mid section. crunches seem to be working only real slow and really it's not that much. i drink a lot of beer. is my only option to quit all the booze. i do lots of running. 4 miles 5 times a week. any suggestions on how to stop this plateau i've hit and get a little more hard/lean?

colin (October 28, 2008)


Johnny_J (October 28, 2008)

This is good, but I honestly thought it was going to stand out more. Maybe I expected too much? Anyways, Against Me! is one of my favorite bands, and love the work that Tom and the dudes have put out.

baseball (October 28, 2008)

Starts out pretty poorly, but there's some good songs near the end. "Anna Is A Stool Pigeon" is amusing. Overall, this is just plain average. Doesn't really approach any of the best songs he's ever written.

mikexdude (October 28, 2008)

But really, it's just okay.

mikexdude (October 28, 2008)


IDontHaveAnAccountYet (October 28, 2008)

Gabel and His Package. I don't like this. Atom pulled it off, this Tom didn't.

mikexdude (October 28, 2008)

Oh, my word. It is ok.

chickswithdicks (October 28, 2008)

the first 2 tracks just seem out of place to me. it's sort of a mish-mash of styles which is fine, but on a short ep it just feels a little odd.

also, what the fuck is "electropunk"?

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