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Rise Against – Long Forgotten Songs: Review

September 7, 2013

I’m absolutely sure that there is nothing Rise Against can do in life or in music that will upset me. I adore them, simply adore them. When they announced Long Forgotten Songs: B Sides and Covers 2000 – 2013, I was a little disappointed that they weren’t releasing something brand new, but then I remembered “hey, this is Rise Against. Even if it’s not brand new, it’ll still be all kinds of awesome.”

 

So when RockSound said they were streaming the full album of Long Forgotten Songs on their website a week before its official release next week, well I jumped right on that. Who am I to turn down the chance to listen to an album by one of my favourite bands a week before its release date? Nobody at all.

Long Forgotten Songs

Kicking off with “Historia Calamitatum”, which if memory serves me correctly is from Appeal to Reason (2008), and is actually one of my favourite tracks from that album, it’s hard not to remember straight away why Rise Against are such an awesome band, and you instantly stop caring that this isn’t brand new material.

Next up is “Death Blossoms”, which according to Wikipedia, Rise Against released for Guitar Hero in 2009, but doesn’t seem to have been aired since. It’s a great track, with a lot of shoutiness from Tim McIlrath that hasn’t been seen in their more recent albums. “Elective Amnesia” is another cracking track, which I’m sure I’ve heard before but can’t quite put my finger on (ed. it turns out it was an iTunes exclusive bonus track for Appeal to Reason, but I bought the hard disc, so…). It matters not. It’s awesome.

“Grammatizator” is another wonderfully shouty track that reminds me of Rise Against of old. In fact, it was released as a single back in 2009 along with a live recording of “Hero of War”, so in a way it is Rise Against of old.

“Blind” and “Everchanging” are both lovely acoustic tracks, in particular “Everchanging”, which appeared first on the European release of This is Noise in 2008. These songs remind me a lot of “Swing Life Away” and I absolutely adore Tim McIlrath’s voice when it’s exposed over acoustic guitar. I often think that if I won the lottery, I’d pay to have him come and sing “Swing Life Away” to me over and over while I feed him delicious vegetarian creations.

Acoustic interlude over, “Generation Lost” is so fast-paced that I don’t know how to even hear all the words, let alone repeat them. This track really is Rise Against of old, having first appeared on Fat Music Vol.6 – Uncontrollable Flatulence waaaaay back in 2002. It also shares a name with a DVD documentary that Rise Against made and released in 2010. Little fangirl fact there, for you!

“Dirt and Roses” is one of my favourite tracks on Long Forgotten Sons. It’s everything I love about Rise Against; McIlrath’s voice, a catchy melody, political lyrics – what’s not to love? Apparently it also featured in the soundtrack of 2012’s Marvel: Avengers Assemble, which was a pretty awesome film, so we’re onto a definite winner here.

Covering Bob Dylan is a pretty bold move. Why do I say that? Because that’s who Rise Against are covering in “The Ballad of Hollis Brown”. Singing the blues isn’t something you’d necessarily associate with punksters like Rise Against, but they manage to pull it off. At risk of sounding like a worn-out X Factor judge, they really make the song their own.

“Sight Unseen” is yet another really good track. It was originally from a split album between Rise Against and Anti-Flag (which I don’t own, but my reliable source Wikipedia tells me so) and has also featured on some video game or other that boys like this year. We’re only just about halfway through (this is a long album) and I haven’t come across anything I haven’t liked yet. Why would I? I love Rise Against.

“Lanterns” is another of my favourite tracks from Long Forgotten Songs. A bit like “Dirt and Roses”, it’s everything I love about Rise Against and is just so… ‘them’. An absolutely impeccable song.

It’s hard not to recognise “Making Christmas”. You’d be hard pushed to find anyone of my generation who hasn’t seen The Nightmare Before Christmas. Rise Against’s cover is far from new, but it’s still very cool, and one of the most unusual band covers I’ve ever come across, if you exclude some of the very strange things Me First and the Gimme Gimme’s have done.

After this come four shorter tracks – all under 2 minutes – “Join the Ranks”, “Built to Last”, “Voice of Dissent” and “Little Boxes”.  They’re all incredibly fast paced and energetic, even “Little Boxes”, which is a cover of Pete Seeger’s 1963 hit. Maybe that’s why they’re so short; it’d be exhausting if they were any longer. “Built to Last” is a particular favourite from these four. Even though I like McIlrath’s voice better when he sings proper melodies, I am a bit partial to shoutier Rise Against. I also find “Little Boxes” a very apt choice of cover, with its politically satirical lyrics. No doubt exactly why Rise Against chose it.

“Give it All”, if memory serves me correctly, first featured on Siren Song of the Counter Culture back in 2004 and again, was one of my favourite tracks on that album. I presume that the recording for Long Forgotten Songs is not the original, but it could be. In all the time since it was first written, it hasn’t lost a thing.

“Minor Threat” is another shortie, a cover by 80s punk band Minor Threat, who apparently named songs after themselves. It’s super energetic, but of all the amazing songs on this album, it’s the one I like the least. I can’t pin on why, it just doesn’t seem quite as “on brand” as the other tracks, which are so distinctively Rise Against.

“Obstructed View” takes us, thankfully then, back to a Rise Against original, which first saw the light of day on the special edition of Siren Song of the Counter Culture. It’s another oldie but a goodie, and is very distinctively Rise Against, thank God.

“But Tonight We Dance” is from the LP edition of The Sufferer and the Witness and is another of my favourite tracks on Long Forgotten Songs. It has some amazing harmonies in it, and I could listen to it on repeat quite happily.

“Nervous Breakdown” is Black Flag cover and another one that of all the great stuff on this album, I’m not all that enamoured with. I don’t know what it is, I’m just not feeling it. Thankfully, next up is an old familiar, “Gethsemane”, which was a bonus track on The Unravelling and a song I’m rather fond of.

“Boy’s No Good”, originally by Lifeline, is a better cover. The verses feel very ‘Rise Against’, although I’m still not really feeling the chorus. I think it must be something about the era all these cover songs come from – it’s the same thing that rubs me up the wrong way even though I still can’t quite put my finger on what exactly it is.

“Anyway You Want It” is another track that it’s hard not to know. Originally by iconic rock band Journey, Rise Against’s cover got its first airing as a bonus track on Revolutions Per Minute, and it’s great to see it get another airing. Such a good cover, and definitely the best on Long Forgotten Sons. By a long shot.

“Sliver”, I find it really hard to say anything against because the original is by Nirvana and I love the original. However, Rise Against’s cover just isn’t very ‘them’ – Nirvana are great, but Rise Against sounding like Nirvana… not so much.

To finish the album, Rise Against go out with a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Ghost of Tom Joad”, and a live version, too, with special guest Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine fame. Now I hear it again, I’m pretty sure I heard Morello and McIlrath duet on an acoustic version of this when I last saw Rise Against live in, I think, February 2011 and Tom Morello was supporting. I loved it then, and this version is loads better; a great track to end a corker of an album on.

If you couldn’t tell already, I think this album is completely awesome. I’m not in the habit of giving ratings but if I were to rate this, it’d be off the chart. I’ve been a Rise Against fan for a very long time now, and I just never tire of them. Their so-called “B-sides” are just as amazing as the singles they’ve released and although their covers are a little bit hit and miss for my own personal preferences, they certainly make wise choices on them musically and never depart from their own musical ethos in them. Roll on general release so I can pick up a copy of this absolute diamond of an album.

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