I Was A Teenage Anarchist

Album: White Crosses (2010)
  • songfacts ®
  • This is the first single from Florida punk rock band Against Me!'s fifth studio album, White Crosses. The disc was produced by Butch Vig, who also helmed their previous record, New Wave and is famous for his work with Nirvana and Garbage. When we interviewed Against Me! lead singer and primary songwriter Tom Gabel in 2010 (before his transition to Laura Jane Grace), he talked about working with Vig: "Butch is really methodical, in an OCD kind of way, which I can 100% appreciate and back. It's all about attention to detail. I feel like the experiences I've had working with him are the closest I'll ever come to going to college. I couldn't put a price on what I've learned. And I don't think I could ever repay how cool he's been to us. He's a genuine person, that's what makes him so great to work with. And he has great taste in wine."
  • Tom Gabel was, in fact, a teenage anarchist, and while his feelings about anarchism movement have changed, there is much more to this song. He told us: "I knew pretty much from the get-go that this song was going to be vastly misinterpreted, with a lot of our older fan base taking it as some kind of denunciation of past political beliefs. I thought that was all pretty predictable. But it surprises me when I get asked questions in interviews that imply it's a nostalgic song, I didn't see that coming. I'm mean, I'm fine with the song making people feel nostalgic, but that's their nostalgia, not mine. I'm not asking myself the question of 'Do you remember when you where young and you wanted to set the world on fire?', I'm 29, I AM young, and I've never forgotten that I want to 'set the world on fire.' I started playing in this band when I was 17, I'm still going, and I've never had a question of commitment to pursuing my dream, traveling the world, playing music and writing songs hoping they'll change the world. I'm not sure I've reached that last goal, but I'm still trying. This record isn't us coming back from the brink of some self imposed exile where we stopped playing music, completely lost ourselves, ended up working as a short-order cook in some greasy spoon joint in a small Midwestern town, our past a mystery to all. I digress. I'm asking the listener the question, 'Do you remember when you where young and you wanted to set the world on fire?' Do you?" (Get more in our interview with Tom Gabel.)
  • Like several tracks on the album, this song details frontman Tom Gabel's time spent kicking around suburban Florida as a teenage punk. "Writing this record, I spent a lot of time reflecting," Gabel told MTV News. "I spent a lot of time thinking about people I used to know, places I used to hang out, things I used to do - I grew up in the anarcho-punk scene, and I had many experiences in that - so that almost couldn't help but show up on this record."
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