Reflecting on a Former Clarity: 10 Years of Against Me!’s ‘Searching for a Former Clarity’

Sunday, September 6, 2015 marked the 10 year anniversary of Against Me!’s third full length album, Searching for a Former Clarity. We here at Dying Scene thought that was a good enough excuse as any to have some of our editors talk about the album and what it means to them.

Today we have Dying Scene editor The Torchbearer talk about his feelings on Searching for a Former Clarity and how he almost missed a whole world of new music by not giving this album its due.  You can read his thoughts below.

Searching for a Former Clarity was the first Against Me! album I listened to.  Well, it was at least the first I heard bits and pieces of.  Shortly after it came out I was roaming the aisles of Best Buy looking for some new music to pick up.  I came across a tiny little Against Me! section, and started to take a look.  I had been wanting to check them out, considering a lot of my friends from school were really into them, and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.  So I scanned the barcode into one of listening stations and popped the headphones on.

I didn’t get it.

It seemed too slow and weird for me.  I was used to punk being all fast drum beats, ear shredding guitars, mohawks, and circle pits.  I listened to a minute or two of almost every song and recognized it was something good, but I just wasn’t feeling it.  I eventually put it back and ended up picking out some other CDs.  I don’t remember what I ended up getting that day, but I still remember listening to bits of Searching for a Former Clarity.

A few weeks later, some of those same friends who were into the band were talking about the album and how they felt about it.  Some of them called the band sell-outs while others were praising the band for their growth over the years.  One thing was certain though, I had never come across a band that everyone talked about with such passion before.  I remember telling one of them that I heard pieces of it and nothing really jumped out at me, also mentioning that was the first I had heard of them.  They wouldn’t let that stand.

The next day I was presented with 2 burned CDs containing most of their then-recorded material:  Vivida Vis!, Crime as Forgiven By…, The Acoustic EP, Reinventing Axl Rose, Disco Before the Breakdown, As The Eternal Cowboy, and of course, the brand new Searching for a Former Clarity.  The only thing missing was the early self-titled EP.  But no worries, I would eventually hunt that down once my Against Me! vinyl collecting phase kicked in with full force a few years later.

The first album I put on from those mixed CDs was Reinventing Axl Rose, and once I did, it clicked.  I finally got it.  I finally understood why everyone was so obsessed with this band.  The passion and pure emotion coming out of my speakers was overwhelming.  I eventually came to love every song I heard and learned every lyric, including all the ones on Searching for a Former Clarity.  The band also opened a door I had naively kept shut until then.  I finally understood that punk could be more than just fast drums and mohawks.  Through discovering their music, I also found a massive love for folk punk as well as gritty mid-tempo punk that I still hold today.

My love for Against Me! would continue to grow over the last few years of high school and throughout college, and many of my fondest memories revolve around the band.  I covered their songs too many times to count, whether it was just with friends hanging out, during jazz band at school, our own band practices, or even during our shows.  Seeing Against Me! live back then was always the best because it was the one band that every single person in our circle would go see, and those shows were probably some of the last times we were all in the same room together.

Since those days, my fanatic enthusiasm for the band has wavered a bit, but I am still excited whenever they put something new out, and I have yet to miss a show if they come through my town.  I know that even if for some reason I completely stop listening to them in the future, they will always hold a special place in my musical heart.  And to think, I could have missed out, all because at first I didn’t like Searching for a Former Clarity.


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