Regardless of whether Tom Gabel is performing solo or with Against Me!, his songs make me want to learn every word and scream along at the top of my lungs. I can’t think of any higher praise than that.
Sure, some of the production choices on “Heart Burns” are questionable, but in the end the enjoyment of this music comes from Gabel’s amazingly intense voice. This guy’s blood is overflowing with electricity, and his delivery could make even a mediocre song sound thrilling.
Not that there’s anything mediocre about the songs on “Heart Burns.” Every song on this album is killer in its own way.
My favorites, though, are “Amputations,” which gets to the heart of the anti-war movement; “100 Years of War,” which might as well be the soundtrack to the 2008 presidential election; and “Anna is a Stool Pigeon,” which is reminiscent of Bob Dylan’s “Hurricane” in that it puts a complex legal story into a catchy song (Google “Elle Anna FBI Informant” to find the fascinating magazine article that inspired the song).
I’ll admit that this isn’t the greatest album ever. I understand that it might not appeal to everyone. But I freaking love it. All Gabel needs is a little bit more popularity and he could become the Joe Strummer of the 21st century. He already is in my eyes.