Back with their 11th studio album, punk activists Anti-Flag’s new release, American Fall is with us. Will the band still manage to remain relevant after all this time in such a rapidly changing world?
Having formed up in the late 1980’s in Pittsburgh, far from the California punk scene, Anti-Flag have nevertheless kept true to themselves and their roots. Despite being later to the party in signing up to a record company to keep their controls and ideals intact, the band are no worse off for it. We take the new album for a listen.
“American Attraction” hurtles the album into life with guitars and drums straight out of your neighbour’s garage but with vocals just touched enough by the sound engineer that they sound distorted and a little computerised. If you’re familiar with the band, or perhaps something you’d catch from the band’s name alone, the lyrics are politically charged, a theme which heavily continues throughout the album.
“Digital Blackout” is an excellent example of this. The song attacks the issues of the web such as radicalisation and state control and the overall ambiguity of the internet and how it can even be used to ‘enslave and weaponise’ those caught within it. The track shows that the band’s socio-political message has remained relevant and that they have ensured they remain current themselves. Even in the first two thundering punk tracks, it’s like someone has taken Blink 182’s positive sound, but handed it a left-wing pamphlet. “American Attraction” takes aim at guns, drugs and money, while “The Criminals” fires off at the president and health care, in a light-hearted but strong-worded tirade.
Having formed in the 80’s and being around for longer than most of the punk bands that we’ve seen come and go, listening through this album, you get a sense of how much Anti-Flag have influenced bands that followed after them. “Trouble Follows Me” sounds so similar to Green Day’s early work, you’d be forgiven for mistaking the artists for one another. It’s an excellent throwback to the 90’s stateside punk sound.
Despite coming in at under two minutes, a strong contender for the best track of the album comes in the thundering form of “Liar”. A blistering, speeding song with shouted vocals ranging across themes from drugs to empires, it’s great to thrash out to, like true punk.
However, the crown for ‘best track’ has to go to “Racists”. Perhaps more poignant in the states than ever in recent times, the song is a masterful attack on the ‘alt-right’ of US politics and the bystanders who allow them to operate unimpeded. The song is a masterclass in punk lyricism. The band have stitched together small statements heard either in active or passive support of racism (and sexism), as well as their own messages into an angry and pacing track, and it is excellent. The song demands a listen regardless of it’s political message, but especially so because of it. Lyrics to listen out for: ‘just cos you don’t know you’re racist/doesn’t mean you get a pass for your ignorance‘.
It’s not all darkness and hatred of the government however. On “I Came. I Saw. I Believed” they speak positively of the power of revolution (with a subtle nod to the Occupy movement, whom the band recently allied themselves with and spoke in support of). The song tells of how they have seen the power of citizens standing up for their rights coming to fruition, and it’s a great song to boot.
To lead us out of the album, we are left with “Throw It Away” and “Casualty”. The former is a simplistic (not that this is a bad thing) but savage track that encapsulates the anger and disenfranchised voice of punk rock. The latter however, leads out on a slightly more positive note, taking punks poppier side out for a turn. Still loaded with imagery of the police force and not allowing themselves to be silenced, it’s still lyrically charged however.
The album overall is a testament to the talent of Anti-Flag. Its no small achievement that the band is nearly 30 years old and still remaining politically active and relevant whilst also turning out great punk music.
Author: Steve, Southgate store