The 9 Best Songs By Rise Against
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Rise Against, the punk-rock band from Chicago, has been around since 1999. Since then, they have released seven studio albums, achieving critical success with their breakout 2003 album Siren Song of the Counter Culture. The band is lead by their gravel-voiced front man, Tim McIlrath, who has created the unique sound of the band with bassist Joe Principe, guitarist Zach Blair, and drummer Brandon Barnes. Over the past 17 years, the band has gone through changes. What started as a hardcore/punk-rock band has morphed into something completely different and unique. Want to know their best songs? Read on. Some of my picks are lesser known jams that you might not have heard on the radio.
1. The Good Left Undone
A hit off the powerful album The Sufferer and the Witness, this song showcases McIlrath’s voice like no other. The lyrics in this song tell of a simple story of a flower in a field and the question of if you should remove a good thing from where it belongs. Sometimes, it might be better to let go. You’ll find near poetic lyrics a common theme in McIlrath’s lyrics, something nearly unheard of in the punk scene.
2. Swing Life Away
No Rise Against list would be complete without mentioning the gentle melody of “Swing Life Away.” This song was written with McIlrath’s friend Neil Hennessy and is very different than other Rise Against songs. Filled with positive lyrics and upbeat rhythm guitar, it is a harsh contrast to the screamed vocals and distorted guitar of other songs. The message is all about being content and happy with not having much. It’s a nice break from the “fight the government” message in many of the band’s songs.
3. But Tonight We Dance
Originally a b-side recorded with The Sufferer and the Witness, this short song has such an interesting sound. Something about this mix just works. The verses are almost mesmerizing with a chorus that makes you want to yell along with the front man. Honestly, one of my favorite songs of the band, I couldn’t resist putting it on the list. McIlrath’s voice gets the spotlight again in this song, which works extremely well with the riff in the background.
4. The Art of Losing
A gem from their first album The Unraveling, this is Rise Against at their most punk. A quick tempo and lyrics that are yelled out and full of anger. The reason that this song made the list is due to the break in the middle of the song. At around 1:00 in the song, the instrument fade off before a completely riff takes over. It sounds almost like a new song, but keep the same theme and makes the listener think, “Whoa. What’s going on?”
5. From Heads Unworthy
A very dynamic song off one of their most commercially successful albums Siren Song of the Counter Culture, “From Heads Unworthy” starts off with the crisp distortion of the rhythm guitar. The song quickly ramps into a pre-chorus that prompts the listener to yell along to. Taking a common theme found in many of their songs, this is about overthrowing the people above you. The reason this song was chosen comes largely from the bridge of the song. The lyrics found here are addressed directly to someone in McIlrath’s life. You can feel the weight and emotion behind each word. “I’m not after fame and fortune, I’m after you. When I’ve served my time I swear I’ll come back for you.”
6. This Is Letting Go
During their journey, Rise Against has gotten flak for changing their sound from punk rock to something a little more mainstream. I credit this solely to the band growing up. Regardless, the band has lost some old fans who enjoyed the old punk sound of the band and gained fans who connect to the new music. Off their album Endgame, McIlrath takes time to paint pictures with his words. From the bridge to the chorus, his lyrics place the listener in a scene that the band creates. This is one of my all time favorites from the band.
Their latest album The Black Market was met with positive reviews. The album takes a more introspective view than a political one. Obviously, there are still plenty of political songs found on this album, ranging from the acoustic plea “People Live Here” to the hardcore and intense “The Eco-Terrorist In Me.” This song compares love and life to methadone, a powerful painkiller. The highlight of the song is found in the lyrics in the chorus: “I am a heart on fire and all the world’s a fuse so don’t get close” along with a melody that encourages you to see how long you can hold out notes in your car. Go all out.
A fast-paced and headbanging riff starts this song off. Immediately, you know that this is a song that makes you move. While it’s more representative of their heavier side, with something almost like a breakdown in the bridge, this song is extremely dynamic. Parts of the song are quiet, just showcasing the guitar and McIlrath’s voice. Other parts, like the chorus, are heavy and strained. Many songs off of their second album Revolutions Per Minute were like this. If you like the heavier songs of Rise Against, check out “Blood Red, White, and Blue,” “State of the Union,” and “Stained Glass and Marble.”
9. Everchanging (Acoustic)
Originally, “Everchanging” was a song off of their first album, The Unraveling. McIlrath took the song and began to play it at shows with just him and an acoustic guitar. Personally, I like this version much more. The lyrics work much better in an acoustic song, as they are very intimate and personal. The lyrics tell a story of how our lives are always changing. “Have you ever been a part of something that you thought would never end?” This is one of the songs that I associate with growing up. It’s a great post-breakup song that doesn’t make you sad to listen to. Life changes and this song helps the listener relate and accept that.
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