Notably, the band members are all activists of human and animal rights, which is no empty promise. They are all vegans, and live an entirely drug-and-alcohol-free lifestyle (with the exception of drummer Brandon Barnes).
The band has undergone something of a style shift from their first album to their more recent works starting with Appeal to Reason - from straight Punk Rock to a more mainstream sound, although the social commentary in the lyrics has always remained intact. Opinion is divided on which, if any, is the better sound.
- Tim McIlrath: lead vocals, guitar (1999)
- Zach Blair: lead guitar (2007)
- Joe Principe: bass, backing vocals (1999)
- Brandon Barnes: drums, percussion (2000)
- Dan Wlekinski lead guitar, backing vocals (19992001)
- Kevin White lead guitar, backing vocals (200102)
- Todd Mohney lead guitar, backing vocals (200204)
- Chris Chasse lead guitar, backing vocals (200407)
- Toni Tintari drums, percussion (19992000)
- Dan Lumley drums, percussion (2000)
- The Unraveling (2001)
- Revolutions per Minute (2003)
- Siren Song of the Counter Culture (2004)
- The Sufferer & the Witness (2006)
- Appeal to Reason (2008)
- Endgame (2011)
- The Black Market (2014)
- Wolves (2017)
The tropes part when they hit the floor:
- After the End: The song Endgame from the album of the same name features a society collapsing upon itself, but the narrator and his partner are better off for it. Alluded to in the song People Live Here.
- Arc Number: Downplayed on Appeal to Reason, in which the final three songs ("Savior," "Hairline Fracture," and "Whereabouts Unknown") all run the same length - 4 minutes and 2 seconds.
- Beautiful All Along - Tim McIlrath as explained by this comic.◊
- Bookends: "Hero of War" begins and ends with the same two lines:He said "Son, have you seen the world? / Well what would you say if I said that you could?"
- Bland-Name Product: In the music video of "Give It All", a crew defaces a billboard for WcBurger's, which has the upside-down logo of the golden arches of McDonald's. In addition, the billboard advertises hamburgers.
- Break-Up Song: "Everchanging", "The Approaching Curve", "Blood to Bleed".
- Careful with That Axe:
- Especially notable examples include "Injection", "State of the Union" and "Dead Ringer".
- Chicago: The home of the band and the setting for their videos. Not that they have any particular affinity for it, a bunch of punk rock anarchists bomb the hell out of it in the video for "Re-Education (Through Labor)".
- Cluster F-Bomb: "Survive" has the F word in it four times, which is a unique deviation from the band's usual style.
- Cover Version: The band has recored a couple of covers such as "Ballad of Hollis Brown" by Bob Dylan, Sliver by Nirvana and "The Ghost of Tom Joad" by Bruce Springsteen
- Crossover: With Flobots. Tim McIlrath performs the lead vocals for the group in their song "White Flag Warrior".
- The Dead Have Names: "Make It Stop (September's Children)." The alternate title is significant.
- Downer Ending:
- "Hero of War": the man in the story fails to stop his friends from committing war crimes (which are suspiciously similar to some committed by US troops in a certain Iraq prison), and then falls to peer pressure and joins in. Later, he ends up killing a woman who was unarmed and holding a white flag. The man ends up going home, broken and defeated, with his love of country tainted by what he's seen in war.
- "The Approaching Curve": During an argument with the narrator, the girlfriend/wife presumably drives their vehicle off of a cliff (either due to the anger or a distraction), killing them both.
- Driven to Suicide: "Heaven Knows"
- Also, "Make It Stop (September's Children)", at least 'til the last chorus.
- Dual-Meaning Chorus - Many of their songs can be interpreted in multiple ways.
- Eco-Terrorist: "The Eco-Terrorist in Me" is an homage to the concept, suggesting that "burning factories" is acceptable because businessmen are the "true criminals".
- Gilligan Cut: "Hero of War": After the first verse and chorus, you're sure the song's about a man who's proud to be in the military. In the second verse, however, he and a few fellow troops break into a civilian's house and kidnap one of her children. After which he either still believes he'll be a war hero, or is simply being sarcastic.
- Hidden Track: There's a rather faithful cover of Journey's "Any Way You Want It", of all things on Revolutions per Minute, which plays about a minute after the last song ends.
- "Join the Army", They Said" "Hero of War" and "Survivor Guilt"
- Long-Runner Line-up: The current lineup qualified as a Type 2 on March 1, 2017.
- Loudness War: Averted with their first two albums (on an Indie label), played straight with the rest of their discography.
- Lyrical Dissonance: The catchy and upbeat-sounding chorus of Savior stands in sharp contrast to the desperate and rather depressing lyrics.
- Meaningful Name: Former guitarist Mr. Precision.
- Metal Scream: Tim sometimes makes use of a rather harsh roar, despite the band's lack of other metallic elements.
- Music Video Overshadowing
- New Sound Album: Starting with Siren Song of the Counter Culture, they began to ramp up the political tone of their lyrics, while acquiring a more polished, mainstream sound. Opinions on this direction vary, but are generally positive.
- Non-Appearing Title: Played straight in many songs, averted in others.
- "Make It Stop (September's Children)" is half an example, as "Make it stop" is a line in the chorus, but "September's children" is not in the song.
- Obligatory War Crime Scene: "Hero of War" is essentially a string of these after the first chorus.
- Pep-Talk Song: "Survive". "Halfway There".
- Arguably distilled to its purest form with "Tragedy + Time".
- Power Ballad: "Swing Life Away", "Roadside"
- Protest Song: Well, duh. Endgame, in particular, is almost a Protest album.
- Precision F-Strike: "Rumors of My Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated", "Survivor Guilt", "Architects", "State of the Union", "The Great Die-Off", and "House on Fire".
- For a band whose music tackles such heavy, powerful themes, they rarely curse. As such, any instance where they use foul language certainly counts as a Precision F-Strike. For example, in "The Great Die-Off", the chorus says "We want it all and we want it now.". The third time it's said, however, it's replaced by a more powerful "We want the motherfucking world and we want it now".
- Scatting: Savior was in The Sims 3
- Single Tear: In "Savior", the first verse uses this to allude to loneliness.As the telling signs of age rain down, a single tear is dropping
Through the valleys of an aging face that this world has forgotten
- Spoken Word in Music: The verses of "The Approaching Curve". They also use clips of dialogue from American Beauty in "Last Chance Blueprint" and dialogue from the film Henry Fool in "Reception Fades".
- There is also some dialogue in "Survivor Guilt".
- Stepford Smiler: "Paper Wings" and "Audience of One"
- Stepford Snarker: "Hero of War", during the second chorus, possibly.
- Surprisingly Gentle Song: "Swing Life Away"
- Take That!: Compare the Against Me! song "I Was a Teenage Anarchist" with "Architects"
would God bless a murder of the innocent?
- Against Me!: Do you remember when you were young? And you wanted to set the world on fire?
- Rise Against: Do you remember when you were young? And you wanted to set the world on fire? Well, I still am, and I still do!
- "Blood Red, White, and Blue" is a pretty big Take That! against the Bush administration.
would God bless a war based on pride?
would God bless a money-hungry government? No!
- The Runaway: "Paper Wings"
- Wanderlust Song: "Anywhere But Here"
- War Is Hell
- A World Half Full: "Worth Dying For" and the ending to Endgame.