Photo Credit: LeAnn Mueller
Depending on whom you ask, punk rock came to be, in a codified and commonly agreed upon manner, around and about 1977, 45 long years ago. And while punk always had an attitude and a bone to pick with basically everything, it was not an inherently political movement, arguably, till Crass came around and forced the young rockers to choose sides. Either you were down to change the world or you were just a dedicated follower of fashion.
Rise Against has been a member of the former group since its formation in Chicago in 1999. And, considering their uncompromising political stances: animal rights, anti-consumerism, anti-war, anti-racist, anti-capitalist, the band has managed to attain a respectable level of popular acclaim. Combining the muscularity of traditional ’80s hardcore with the approachability of more melodic 1990s punk rock, Rise Against has consistently put out rebel music that appeals to a wide range of audiences. Nowhere Generation II, the follow-up to their 2021 album of the same name, is the band’s latest EP.
Discussion of generations has been consistent throughout punk’s history. Richard Hell baptized his peers with the title of “Blank Generation.” A few years later the Terrible Twins sang about the “Generation of Scars” that would be ushered in when the violence of the Thatcher era finally came to an end. They looked around at the apathy that had set in as the ’80s came to a close and dubbed the age the “Beaten Generation.” With that much history behind the motif, it makes sense that Rise Against would address the idea at some point in their work. For their part, they dubbed the age we find ourselves presently the “Nowhere Generation.”
Nowhere Generation II takes up where 2021’s Nowhere Generation left off and the feeling of anger, dismay but also desperate hope is consistent in both works. The EP opens up with “The Answer”, a rousing little joint that sounds like a mashup of catchy punk and folk, as though Fairport Convention started hanging out with No Use For A Name at some point. Nowhere Generation II turns even more plaintive with the next track “Last Man Standing”, a song that teeters on the edge of balladry. The third joint “This Time It’s Personal” is reflective lyrically and sonically. The fourth track on this EP titled “Pain Management” is a meditation on the hopelessness one feels when a loved one struggles with addiction. And the closer “Holding Patterns” is a good old punk rock jumper.
Five songs, no mess no fuss, but also no new ground. Nowhere Generation II is not a great EP, but neither is it bad. The message or messages it conveys are not new by any means but they remain messages we need to hear; that there is hope and that there is still work to do as a nation and as people. And what more can we ask of punk rock than to give us something to think about while getting our rates up at the same time?