Album Review: Rise Against – “RPM 10”

Rise Against’s “RPM 10” is one for collectors.  The reissue of Rise Against’s 2003 sophomore disc is a complete re-issue of all the “Revolutions per Minute” original tracks, plus a demo version of each track except “Dead Ringer” and “To the Core.”

The main criticism of later Rise Against works (“Endgame” in particular) is that the band  mellowed some of that bite that made them so dangerous, that they dwindled their fervor to accuse war criminals of their crimes.  But those accusations hadn’t yet been lobbied at Rise Against in 2003, when they were still new to most listeners outside of Chicago and when they were still unequivocally fired-up about everything. “Revolutions Per Minute” is the album that captures a moment in time where there was a new political beast to rally against, and screaming “Fuck George Bush” was still raw.

In retrospect, the album is an interesting point in their career- It’s the first Rise Against record written entirely after the band’s formation.  At the time, Rise Against was on the edge of changing labels and obtaining some mainstream success (for better or worse) with “Swing Life Away” off of “Siren Song…” Their previous release, “The Unraveling”, was a strong album with some great songs by a band who hadn’t entirely found their sound yet.  “RPM” was the moment when the blend of Hardcore and Punk, political and personal, met up just right.

The intensity of the original release is still felt here, a decade later.  For a reactionary album to a war now winding down, the lyrics still cut, and still hold a charged meaning.  On “Blood Red, White and Blue,”  the lyrics “Would God Bless … a war based on pride? …   a money-hungry government?  … the Sweatshops?” still turn a spotlight onto those who labor without recognition, help, or basic rights.  Maybe it’s held up so well because the best albums always seem born of conflict, whether it be the aggravation over the dole, Vietnam, poverty,“War on Terror”, or the war on drugs.  With “RPM”, Rise Against is singing about something, and that driven purpose spits into even the most non-political songs with heavy rhythm sections and words clawing their way out.

The main criticism of “RPM 10” is the lack of new material.  There are no hidden B-sides here, no unheard tracks.  In fact, the hidden track from the original “Revolutions Per Minute” is missing from the re-issue. The one song I was most looking forward to hearing a demo version, “To The Core” is one of two songs without a demo.  Was this song always born of so much piss and vinegar?  The world may never know…

As a whole, the demos sound surprisingly clean and similar to the released songs on the original “Revolutions Per Minute.”  While there is an artistic merit to a vision carried out almost unchanged from inception to release, I find it a bit hard to believe a newer band could find nothing to improve on at the final recordings.   If you get your hands on “RPM 10”, try playing the demo followed directly by the released version of the same song (the album is released as the “Revolutions Per Minute” track list, followed by the demos in the same order).  In the majority of songs, the differences are so slight only music nerds and die-hard Rise Against fans will have many comments.

The original “RPM” is a 5 star album.  It’s progressive, it’s political, it’s pissed off, it’s perfect.  “RPM 10” however, doesn’t add anything new to the conversation.  While “RPM 10” doesn’t diminish the legacy of  the original it seems, sadly, like a money grab.

“RPM 10” is out now.  The reissue, unlike the original album, is also available on Spotify.

4.5/5 Stars

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