Punk is usually considered music to foment rebellious, anti-establishment attitudes, fueled as it is with ample doses of raw emotion and disdain for cultural conventions. And Rise Against has endeavored to carry on that tradition with its energetic brand of punk/rock/melodic hardcore music. What sets the band apart, however, is that it goes about that business with a slightly sunnier disposition than many of its peers.
"It was almost cool to be negative, especially around Chicago," founding member and bassist Joe Principe recounts on riseagainst.com. "So, vocalist Tim McIlrath and I had this main goal of putting a positive light on things. There are so many bands that sing about negative things, and we kind of wanted to use this to show people it's OK to voice your opinions and stay positive. We just wanted to be more productive, lyrically."
That philosophy is evident on "Savior," though listeners do have to dig a bit to find it. There's no shortage of angst here, but a ray or two of hope eventually peak out from behind the emotional storm clouds.
"Savior" paints an opaque lyrical picture of an apparently separated couple's frustration and sadness. It seems they've been apart for a while ("I've all but just forgotten/What the color of her eyes were"). And the singer laments, "I'm constantly failing you."
Yet the chorus offers something akin to hope and perhaps even reconciliation, as these two people try to talk through the differences that pushed them apart. "That's when she said, 'I don't hate you, boy/I just want to save you while there's still something left to save.'" To which he replies, "That's when I told her, 'I love you, girl/But I'm not the answer for the questions that you still have.'"
We don't hear what happens next. But at the very least, it seems reconciliation is a real possibility as this couple talks honestly about their expectations and hopes for each other.
Interestingly, the video for the song has nothing, apparently, to do with romantic reconciliation. Instead, it hints at people working through social and political differences. It depicts the band playing and smashing their instruments while people dressed in animal costumes mosh in front of them. A polar bear gets battered about by an elephant and eventually stumbles away to catch a city bus—spotting other animals along the way in homeless situations and digging for food in dumpsters.
"The threatened species is getting the raw end of the deal from the elephant, which is the symbol for the Republican party," explained the video's director, Kevin Kerslake.
Surprisingly, the video concludes with a the polar bear and elephant reuniting. The bear spots the elephant limping home himself and pulls the cord to stop the bus. After the elephant gets on and sits down next to the bear, the two share a paw shake that speaks with surprising poignancy about the possibility of reconciliation and forgiveness.
And so the repeated lyric "I don't hate you" ends up making sense in both a romantic and a political sense. It may not sound as friendly as, "Put 'er there, pal." But in the context of punk rock communication, warring animals making peace after they leave the mosh pit certainly qualifies as the softer side of rebellion.