Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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New Wave

Florida punks issue a sharp challenge to the status quo

You're not supposed to sing lines like "Similar trends in camera technique and editing" or "Protest songs in response to military aggression." They're stiff, Latinate, artistically self-conscious. But on a major-label debut following a breakthrough album all too rich in intelligent angst, they're also ballsy, and with help from name producer Butch Vig, Tom Gabel's emo-hardcore band makes them rock. Tempos are up half a notch, and Gabel's loudspeaker vocals go for clarion boldness. He's not agonizing, he's angry - about observable phenomena he's seen up close and isn't afraid to analyze. Sure he despises the war and the complacency of everyone who doesn't. But he conceived this album as a challenge to all bands, including his own, to render that feeling effective. If "Piss and Vinegar" puts it to the mainstream, "Up the Cuts" wonders whether all music hasn't become disposable in the age of the download. Maybe New Wave is disposable too. But Gabel is fighting it.

Rolling Stone, Aug. 9, 2007