Sound — 8
In terms of sound, "SFAFC" picks up where "The Eternal Cowboy" left off; scratchy, distorted, low-drive guitars supporting aggressive but soaring vocal harmonies. This album serves as the link between what fans might call the old Against Me! and the new one and for that reason, I would call "SFAFC" the most essential Against Me! album. Here, the lyrics are decipherable (as distinct from much of "Reinventing Axl Rose") but still sung with a great deal of ire and rawness (as distinct from much of "White Crosses"). The aspect that has remained constant in Against Me! throughout this transition is in the vocal harmonies, which are better than ever in "Don't Lose Touch" and "From Her Lips To God's Ears", two of the best tracks here. Elements which cannot be found on any other Against Me! albums are present too though; "Miami" features an unusual, but nevertheless triumphant brass section, whilst "Joy" provides a fantastic break from all the anger in another stand-out moment. "Joy" is one of numerous slower tracks on this album; "Violence", "How Low?" and "Holy Sh-t!" also showcase a more laid-back element to the punk band, whilst maintaining that punk snarl. The title track, though, is the slowest and perhaps most interesting of them all sonically. One quiet guitar and limited drumming back one of Tom Gabel's most honest and sincere vocal deliveries to mark a truly haunting yet mesmerising effort, one of the best songs this band has ever done.
Lyrics — 10
Whilst many would consider "Reinventing Axl Rose" to be the angriest album from the Florida punks, I consider this to be far more aggressive, honest and engaging. This is not only the outstanding Against Me! album, but one of the most outstanding punk albums ever when it comes to lyrics at least. Here, Gabel attacks everything in a semi-satirical swipe at the music world, in particular the punk genre, stating brilliantly in "Holy Sh-t!" that "An impression of an original defeats the purpose". He goes on in "Don't Lose Touch" to take a stab at bands who think they mean something; "Please tell me I'm not the only one who thinks we're taking ourselves too seriously, just a little too enamoured with inflated self-purpose". In "Mediocrity Gets You Pears", the so-called hardcore fans are dismissed "So f--k us! We totally sold out the scene". This song in particular could be seen as the lyrical predecessor to 2007's "Stop!". "Unprotected Sex With Multiple Partners" is excellent purely for its sense of disgust with the music industry, even going so far as to reveal the percentages shared between music distributors, ripping off he artists. Then again, more familiar punk ground is tread with "From Her Lips To God's Ears" in which the ever-popular Bush administration comes under scathing attack; "Do you understood what the martyr stood for? Oh Condoleezza do you get the f--king joke?" The lyrics are simply outstanding, brutal, sincere and honest and ultimately commendable; few bands or songwriters venture this far.
Overall Impression — 9
Overall, this is an album any punk fan needs to hear. It alters the definition of punk and really throws down the gauntlet to any songwriters who consider themselves controversial; Gabel is on invincible form here and for that reason alone this album is essential. When it comes to the actual music, this is pretty standard fare for a low-budget, lo-fi punk band, bar perhaps the horns of "Miami" and the beauty of the title track. There is perhaps only one let-down on this album in "Justin", a song which is stripped down to the point of boredom. Other than that, this is a collection of solid and sometimes outstanding songs which absolutely have to be heard.