Ah, the wonderful world of the EP/7". Sometimes forgettable, sometimes memorable, always short.
"The Disco Before the Breakdown" was Against Me!'s only release between the legendary "...is Re-inventing Axl Rose" and hotly debated (and in this reviewer's mind, amazing) "...as the Eternal Cowbody" full lengths. It is the first release to feature the band with the complete line-up as it is now, and the first release by the band without any re-release of Tom Gabel's previous work with only occasional help. And it stands strong.
"Disco..." features three songs which are a solid addition to an undeniably talented band's discography. The title track (Side A) has a bit of a surprise, as horns help kick the song into second gear. While it is a strong track, regardless, the horns really take it to another level, and lend the song a very dancey feel. In typical Tom Gabel fashion, the song carries a strong political message in anecdotal format; many believe it to be a love song about two homosexuals:
I know they're going to laugh at us when they see us out together "holding hands" like this. They wouldn't understand it if we told them all the reasons, not that I think this deserves any kind of explanation... We'll keep this, keep us like a secret, because if my family and friends ever found out about the things we could never be, haunts we'll always keep, so fucking bittersweet..."The flip side of the disc showcases two tracks. The first (or second, on CD) track, "Tonight, We're Gonna Give it 35%" is another full on rocker of a track, with a faster pace that would be further developed on "...Eternal Cowboy" but was still not a complete departure from "Axl Rose"'s more folky feel. The "Whooaooohs," which Against Me! has gotten down to a perfection, make sing along participation easy and fun. Lyrically, it is one of the more blatantly personal songs the band has recorded. To take a stab at it, it seems to be about getting rundown in the face of routine and the general jaded nature of many performers after they experience some sort of success...
"If this is the one chance that really matters, don't let me fuck this up. If you had told me all of this when I was fifteen, I never would have believed it."The final song, in typical Against Me! fashion, is just Tom and his guitar, in what sounds like a bathroom, judging by the recording quality. The low (or high, depending on your tastes) caliber of the sound lends itself very well to the simple chords strummed on the guitar. At first, I have to admit, I skipped back to the other two tracks; but there is something buried in the album, an underlying passion that draws almost everyone I know who owns this release back to the end. The lyrics, again, focus on a relationship, apparently in some sort of transition, and like the preceding track, is more personal than most of the band's prior work.
All told, this is not the band's best release. It is not the best primer for anyone looking to check out one of the more hotly discussed up and coming groups in the underground. For that, you should spend the best 5 or 6 bucks you'll ever spend and check out plan-it-x's website and order the "Crime as forgiven by..." EP. It is, however, a very good, standalone EP that shows a band clearly trying to bridge the gap from where they were ("Axl Rose") to where they want to go ("Eternal Cowboy"). While it might not win over as many casual listeners as their other releases, it will definitely please fans of the band.