Tag Archives: Tom Gabel

Against Me! – The Original Cowboy – CD Review

Gainsville punk residents Against Me! recently dropped a special release for all of their fans.  The band once again reunited with the independent punk record label Fat Wreck Chords to put out The Original Cowboy, an eight song, never before heard demo album.  Available on CD and LP, this release gives the fans a pre-game,  a younger Against Me! attempt, something as an enthusiast I was happy they chose to share.

Recorded in summer of 2003, these demos are what was to become the band’s second full length release and the Fat Wreck Chords debut titled As The Eternal Cowboy.  The demo was actually recorded for the producers of the album just to make sure they were familiar with the songs as Against Me! was looking to make an all analog recording.  Since the band was to record at a different studio (Memphis’ Ardent Studios) they wanted to have something to help keep what they were looking to create on their final version.

Minus the track “Sink, Florida, Sink” all of the other songs from As The Eternal Cowboy appear on the demo release but not in the same order. The combined opening track “A Brief Yet Triumphant Introduction / Cliché Guevarra” even if not fully produced carries enough energy to get you past that grainy sound.  It’s interesting to hear these first takes on songs that later turned into a must have album for many punk rockers out there.

“Mutiny On The Electronic Bay” actually sounded better than the studio mastered version as did “T.S.R.”  Perhaps it was the lack of overdubbing or just the pure integrity of the track making it that much more enjoyable. 

The beginning of “Cavalier Eternal” cracked me up with the comedic prelude to the song with the boys of Against Me! goofing around briefly just as it appears on the mastered release.  The sincere acoustic demo of the song, to me, should have been just put in with the final release.  It sounded a lot better under-processed than that of which appears on As The Eternal Cowboy.

Closing the demo is another combined track “You Look Like I Need A Drink / Turn Those Clapping Hands Into Angry Balled Fists” a track guaranteed to get all the diehard Against Me! disciples to go insane upon hearing it regardless of the take.  After hearing this song, and album for that matter, I wondered why the band even bothered to travel to Memphis in the first place.

The demos may very well just be a money maker for Against Me! and Fat Wreck Chords but honestly, who cares?  It was a good listen and I am happy to add it to my Against Me! collection.  Tom Gabel actually had this to say about the demos, “Recorded and mixed in only a couple of hours, The Original Cowboy was only meant to be a trial run, but, listening to it today, there’s a part of me that feels foolish for ever recording these songs a second time.”  I could not agree anymore Mr. Gabel.  These demos sound better than most fully mastered stuff out there.

DOWNLOAD THIS! – Against Me! – “Unsubstantiated Rumors (Are Good Enough For Me To Base My Life On)

Against Me! videos not related to the above review but still fun to watch:

Tom Gabel – Heart Burns – EP Review

Tom Gabel had a busy 2008.  Not only did the front man of Against Me! headline the Van’s Warped Tour with his associates all summer long but he also recorded his own solo EP called Heart Burns and toured solo on the Revival Tour this past fall in support of it.  The seven song EP was released under Sire records and has Tom Gabel taking things under his control, making for a good listen.

Tom Gabel playing at the Vans Warped Tour in Cleveland 2008
Tom Gabel playing at the Vans Warped Tour in Cleveland 2008

Just in case you didn’t know, Tom Gabel was Against Me! from the get go.  He started the band at age 16 all by himself and played acoustical shows in support of his first release the Acoustical EP.  In a nutshell, his success with his solo material, which came from years of hard work and dedication, soon turned into the band Against Me! many are now familiar with.  Hoards of fans have eaten up many of their albums that incorporated folk with punk rock and high sing along qualities. The rest is history.

Of course that history includes the heartbreak of many dedicated fans when Against Me! went so called “corporate” and signed to a nation label. They released the radio friendly New Wave, one of the band’s most successful releases to date.  Tom Gabel and his band mates were called sellouts for what they did but, regardless of their decision making, they have moved on with new fans all over the world and seem to handle being seen in the spotlight quite well.

Now why Tom Gabel chose to do another solo album remains to be determined.  Some may think he wanted to stray away from the band to focus on his individual talent while others think he went back to his roots as an apology to all of those die-hard fans.

Regardless why he chose to do the Heart Burns EP, I was looking forward to it, as I became a fan of all of his material once I finally pushed aside the hype and decided to actually listen to the band.  The first time I was told about Against Me! I wanted nothing to do with them.  I hated them without ever giving them a chance.  Soon thereafter I was working at a record store and a little scenester girl I worked with played the CD and I was hooked.   I have since seen Against Me! live every time they come to my city.  They put on an amazing show.

Leading up to the EP’s release, Tom Gabel took use of networking wonders MySpace and released one man performance videos for each song released from the EP.  The videos were just a taste of the EP with rough cut versions of politically charged songs and were visually pleasing.  Check out Tom Gabel’s MySpace page if you want a taste of them and while you are at it, check out a previous blog I posted with some other videos there for your viewing pleasure. (I also posted a couple of my favs at the bottom of this blog…)

After seeing the videos I figured this EP would in fact be a collection of those mostly acoustical songs and nothing more.  When “Random Hearts” started with electronic beats leading to Tom Gabel’s trademark raspy singing I realized this was something entirely different.  My initial taste of Tom Gabel’s new solo material sounded like Against Me! meets The Faint without all the dancing.

The following “Conceptual Paths” added elements of folk with very mild reverb on his voice at times.  I loved this song and to think I just stared playing the CD.  “Cowards Sing At Night” humored me; it was clearly about John McCain as the song ended “your war is over Johnny”.  The simple indie rock riffs kept the song flowing

“Amputations” seriously reminded me of classic garage rock with its heavy on guitar distortion.  At one moment I am reminded of “Ballroom Blitz” with the way Tom Gabel sings “There’s no heat between lovers and a summer night.”  Perhaps if you hear the song you will know what I am talking about.  Aside from the sweet similarity, the song is incredible and by the end you are surrounded by the trademark Against Me! group signing.   The song was initially played by Against Me! acoustically last March at in-store events causing a lot of fans to question if the song happened to be a New Wave b-side.

Just when I thought I could not be more impressed by this EP “Anna Is A Stool Pigeon” came on.  The lyrics, a hidden secret love story revolving around an activist guy who fell in love with an undercover FBI agent unknowingly, were an adventure alone.  Chuck Ragan from Hot Water Music added back up vocals and harmonica kept my interest.  Butch Vig from Garbage, who also is the executive producer of the EP, even added his drumming skills to pull together one hell of a track.

This EP is continuing evidence that Tom Gabel is to be heard by many regardless if he does it on his own or with Against Me!.  I have high expectations for his musical career and I see him not slowing down anytime soon.  You don’t have to like Against Me! to enjoy the Heart Burns EP.  Sure it has its sing along moments and for the most part sounds like Against Me!.  I am sure all the die hard will rave about it, or bitch about it for the sake of it not being Against Me!, but it is a genuine effort and to be enjoyed by all.

Tom Gabel To Release Solo Material

Against Me!‘s Tom Gabel has been doing a little sumptin sumptin on the side.  The front man of the ever popular Against Me! is doing things his own way this time.  He will be releasing a solo album on Oct 28th, 2008 called Heart Burns

Leading up to the release Tom Gabel has been releasing music videos via MySpace of songs that will be appearing on his project. I hadn’t had a chance to check them out until now…and now you can too:

100 Years Of War

Random Hearts

Cowards Sing At Night

Harsh Realms

From what I am gathering the EP to be released will actually be live performances.  This is really a highly anticipated release for me.  This comes from the guy who used to HATE Against Me! too. 

When I first got into Against Me! there was already a huge following and a couple of albums had been released.  I listened to a few tracks and tried real had to like them but I couldn’t.  It was mostly from fans telling me how awesome they were and how incredible they sounded before my ears even got a taste.  Scene kids jamming them down my throat was not helping the situation when I worked at a record store.

I still gave them a couple more chances and even saw them play with Smoke Or Fire.  Soon after hearing them a few more times I started hearing the more folk driven tracks and I suddenly liked them.  When I caught them live my opinion changed entirely.  They were so fun, full of smiles, and played their hearts out.  Sing-a-longs galore.  Suddenly I liked what I once hated…

I remember when New Wave came out earlier this year.  Die hard fans soon hated the band and called them sellouts.  They were upset the band went mainstream.  I became a bigger fan myself after hearing that album, it is insane.  That’s music industry for ya though…  You have to pay the bills some how and if selling out means helping ensure a financially sane future then I say go for it… 

Oct. 28th is right around the corner and if you like Against Me! you should support Tom Gabel and pick up his solo release.