10 YEARS LATER: Rise Against’s ‘Siren Song of the Counter Culture’

Rise Against Siren Song

If you were to look at Pitchfork’s scathing 2.9/10 review of Rise Against’s third studio album today, you’ll find more snark-filled jabs against young adult angst and punk ideologies stuffed into a letter to Ralph Nader than you could shake an X-emblazoned fist at. Plenty has changed in the past ten years since that was published, though. For example, Mr. Nader’s been given a reasonable break and these Chicago natives have made strides towards maturity (and consequentially, commercialization).

I can’t speak on behalf of the band, but I will say that as time has progressed, Rise Against’s music has naturally sounded more bold and comfortable, which is a good thing. There’s nothing more awkward than seeing a bunch of older guys trying to act young and hip. If a well-respected and successful band wants to keep releasing music, the least they can do for themselves and for their fan base is stay true to themselves. If an opportunity to grow and make a chunk of change presents itself, the logical choice would be to follow through with a deal.

Prior to their signing onto Geffen Records, the band were signed to Fat Wreck Chords, the label owned by NOFX’s Fat Mike. It was through that label support that Rise Against were able to write and release their first two albums, Unraveling and Revolutions Per Minute, which led to opening slots on AFI, Sick of it All, and NOFX tours. This in and of itself would be the achievement for the average punk band, but for Rise Against, it was just another part of the journey.

Once Siren Song of the Counter Culture hit shelves on August 10, 2004, it was a whole new game for the bunch. Save for the message-fueled aggression found on tracks like “State of the Union” and “To Them These Streets Belong,” this might be among the more accessible records of Rise Against’s career.

For the first time, Rise Against has put out a punk album that didn’t sound like a punk album. Sure there are some moments on the record which follow a more steady and consistent pace, but there are others that can totally throw the listener for a loop. Being the first acoustic track to come from the band on such a grand scale, “Swing Life Away” sure was a huge hit with fans.

Despite its plethora of “un-punk” songs, Siren Song of the Counter Culture really was a gateway punk album for many. With a reliance on hits as strong as “Give it All” and “Paper Wings,” Rise Against were able to expand their fanbase and write their way onto plenty of radio festivals. On the other hand, deep cuts such as “Blood to Bleed” and “Dancing for Rain” gave something to people to dig into and actually hear something they haven’t heard before.

It’s crazy to listen to Rise Against’s earlier work and think of them as a band who would go onto landing plenty of spots on film and video game soundtracks while still playing Warped Tour, but Siren Song solidifies all of that while showing promise of a band who could become something more. Headlining an arena tour in 2012 and getting to take along young guns like Title Fight and The Menzingers who would otherwise have nearly no other chance to play in that kind of setting would be a dream; thanks to everything that stemmed from the release of this record, it all soon became a reality.

 Written by Adrian Garza (Follow him on Twitter)
Siren Song of the Counter Culture turned ten yesterday, August 10.

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