Bear with me, this is my first ever attempt at reviewing a live album. They're not something I buy very often but Against Me! just released their second live album 23 Sex Acts and I love Against Me! so I had to buy it. I love their previous live album Americans Abroad!!! Against Me!!! Live In London!!! so I had high hopes for 23 Sex Acts. Normally when I review a studio album I review each track individually and quite analytically, I figure for a live album review I should review it by how it makes me feel because overall that's what live music should do - make you feel. Whether it be energy, happy, angry, passionate or any other feelings, a good live band should make you feel something. Against Me! have always made me feel something when I've seen them live or even when I listen to them so I had high hopes for 23 Sex Acts.
Looking at the track listing I was pleased that there wasn't too much favouritism towards the newer Against Me! material and there was a good selection of songs from all across their lengthy discography. What really struck me was how well the old and new material work together despite the varying subject matters. Something Against Me! have always been great at live, despite numerous line up changed throughout the years, is putting a lot of passion into their live show. Every single sung word, guitar strum and drum beat is done at 110%. This passion is displayed right from the opening songs Fuckmylife666 and Pints Of Guinness Make You Strong to the final tracks Sink Florida Sink and We Laugh At Danger (And Break All The Rules). The third track, Cliché Guevara,was the first song that really made me want to throw my hands in the air and get a bit rowdy behind my keyboard. This is one of those songs that just works perfectly live. The classic from Eternal Cowboy has an instantly recognisable intro, a punchy but catchy verse and a chorus anyone can pick up on first listen. A highlight of the album for me wasn't actually a musical one: it’s the point during the song New Wave where Laura calls out a security guard for attempting to throw out a member of the audience for having a good time. They could have easily cut that part of the set out of the recording but they kept it in, showing the unity between the band and their fan base. Ever the professionals they then launch into an extremely raucous version of Walking Is Still Honest from Reinventing Axl Rose, a song that I never really loved until I got to hear it live.
I like the little changes between the studio versions and the live versions of some of the songs. A prime example of this is with Don't Lose Touch. On the studio version the song is quite punchy and to the point but live there is a lot more melody in the song. I don't know if this was done purposely or it's just a natural progression over time but it sounds fantastic. You can hear that the song White Crosses got a great reaction from the live crowd with them clearly singing the intro for the band. I love this kind of crowd participation during a gig. Hearing it on the recording makes me really wish that I’d been there. How Low really gives guitarist James Bowman a chance to show off his brilliant voice during the chorus. I'd love to hear him one day front his own band; I imagine they would be pretty special. Black Me Out is a perfect punk rock sing along song to put your arms round a stranger and shout at the top of your lungs. Listening to it as I type this is making me want to scream along now. Last time I saw Against Me! live was at The Electric Ballroom in Camden and they encored with Sink Florida Sink and We Laugh At Danger. At the Ballroom the crowd launched into an accapella version of Sink Florida Sink before the band played it. For me this was one of the most special moments I've ever felt at a gig, it gave me goosebumps, so I was happy to hear that the crowd did that for this recording as it made the memories of that gig come flooding back and a big smile appear on my face. I always wish that the band would also do the song accapella style with the crowd rather than doing it full band. That would be extremely special.
Against Me! are easily one of my favourite all time bands, whether live or recorded they cannot put a foot wrong with me. 23 Sex Acts serves as a perfect addition to a long-standing fan’s collection as well as a fantastic starter point for any new fans wanting to really find out what Against Me! are all about. What are Against Me! about you say? Being the very best band on the planet – that’s what Against Me! are about!
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