At first, it might be easy for the format fetishist who is searching for the great “find” or “must-have” on Record Store Day to overlook Rise Against‘s contribution to the festivities. On the surface, it doesn’t really stand out at all; the band put a song from the album that they released last year (The Black Market) up front and an unreleased track (of which Rise Against has many – the number of orphaned songs that the band has left on singles and compilations is staggering) on this single’s A-side, and conceded the B-side to author/political pundit Will Potter so he could do some spoken word? Ho-hum.
On a perfectly superficial level, the idea this 7” plays out seems a little weak and, if left with the choice between it and, say, the RSD 7” by Tom Verlaine and David Bowie or the picture disc contributed by Billie Joe Armstrong or OFF!’s Live at the BBC 10” it seems possible that this single would find itself lost in a very imposing shuffle. Those who know better are aware that such an event would be tragic though because, in fact, this single is absolutely astounding.
Fans who picked up The Black Market last year will be happy to see that “Eco-Terrorist” is the band’s Record Store Day single but, for the unfamiliar, it needs to be said that the song truly does rank as one of the band’s best since “Chamber The Cartridge” opened The Sufferer and The Witness in 2006 and shattered melodic hardcore landspeed records. Here, drummer Brandon Barnes fans similar flames to those he ignited nine years ago, but guitarist Zach Blair steps up and expands the band’s normally very dense and thick rhythm section with some textural guitar underpinnings as well as some really tight, fast and understated leads which don’t quite make it into “solo” territory, but do have a heroic quality about them.
Such a fantastic blast would be worth the price of admission all on its own too; but singer Tim McIlrath ups both the stakes and adrenaline levels by chipping in a genuinely frenetic tone which crosswires civil disobedience and catharsis beautifully (check out lines like “Spraypaint the cameras/jam the frequency/ What you kill, just comes alive in me”). In the end, McIlrath’s questions prove to be pertinent and affecting:
“When it all comes down, will you say you did everything you could?
When it all comes down, can you say that you never gave up?
Were you standing by to watch it all fall away?”
Try to stand stoic and unaffected by the delivery of those lyrics reader, I dare you.
While every listener with a pulse tries to collect themselves after “The Eco-Terrorist In Me” lays them flat, Rise Against wastes no time and crams the unreleased fury of “About Damn Time” onto the A-side for good measure, just to make sure listeners know what hit them. There, the band doesn’t try to change tempos to illustrate the difference between the songs, they just mow listeners over again to make the point that they’ve only got a limited amount of time to work with on one side of a seven-inch but they’re going to get all they can into it.
The second song on the side keeps the tempo up but opens the band’s collective heart a bit; McIlrathlets his voice crack a little as he announces, “A death knell sounds no matter where I go/ Cities and small towns, all I want is something to call my own, but I’m in the dark now” and makes listeners a little weak in the knee as only he can really do. “About Damn Time” is beautiful and caustic as the best Rise Against songs are, and nothing is left to spare here; it’s harsh and filled with hard feelings, but listeners will still want to inhabit it – ESPECIALLY because it’s a stolen moment on a small-run single. In that way, it is the ideal kind of song in a succinct but satisfying experience.
Now, some might think that a bit of spoken word stacked against the sensory-depriving speed and catharsis on this single’s A-side might be totally misplaced but, in fact, Will Potter’s “We Will Never Forget”is a great resolution for this single’s flipside. After the assault that the two A-side tracks dole out, listeners will find themselves rightly winded as they flip the disc. When they drop the needle and hear a story about a guy with a desire to do good getting arrested for doing some positive political outreach (hanging door knockers), they’ll be put off balance, but then won as the story develops around an animal protection office getting hit by police, and builds to the larger thematic point of thinking green (environmentally conscious) becoming viewed as the new red (communism). That’s where the story becomes a little dark and very poignant; the fact that the government monitors the habits of animal rights activists with the same mistrustful eye they utilize for terrorism is a provocative one.
Potter, for his part, does not give in to anger or fingerpointing, he simply remains didactic; his images and dialogue like, “The point of all this is to make us afraid but, as a journalist, I have an unwavering faith in the power of education. Our best weapon is sunlight; Dostoyevsky wrote that, ‘The whole work of man is to prove that he is a man and not a piano key’” are incredibly affecting. He goes further into his philosophy from there, but the point is made and holds, and it is both profoundly affecting and inspiring – as much or more so than the two songs on this single’s A-side are.
THAT is how this single fits together; while not exactly of the same form, both sides and the artists who produced them seek to use vibrant and powerful language to affect change. Coupled the way they are too, it quickly becomes hard to imagine one without the other; while fans will focus solely on the single’s A-side at first, it won’t be long before they’re playing through the 7” in its entirety and relishing it all equally. See for yourself reader, make sure you find a copy of this single on April 18 – you won’t be sorry.
Ground Control Magazine – Rise Against – Discography review – [Feature] Rise Against – www.groundcontrolmag.com/detail/1/2433/
The Eco-Terrorist In Me 7” will be released on April 18, 2015 at select independent record stores. Check here for a list of locations: www.recordstoreday.com/Venues.