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Album Review – Anti-Flag – American Spring

Album Review – Anti-Flag – American Spring

By: Kevin Kusisto

“Love thy enemy as yourself / As you carpet bomb him to hell,” Justin Sane snarls on “Fabled World” the opening number of American Spring, Anti-Flag’s tenth studio album.  The Pittsburgh, USA punk rockers haven’t lost their bite—or their knack for snappy political pop-punk hooks—after over 20 years in the arena, and they’re not afraid to let you know exactly how they feel.  This collection of 14 righteously indignant anthems may not win over those who’ve never found Anti-Flag’s unceasing rhetoric compelling, but if you dig the formula, the band’s latest is enjoyably red, white, and bloody.

“Love thy enemy as yourself / As you carpet bomb him to hell,” Justin Sane snarls on “Fabled World” the opening number of American Spring, Anti-Flag’s tenth studio album.  The Pittsburgh, USA punk rockers haven’t lost their bite—or their knack for snappy political pop-punk hooks—after over 20 years in the arena, and they’re not afraid to let you know exactly how they feel.  This collection of 14 righteously indignant anthems may not win over those who’ve never found Anti-Flag’s unceasing rhetoric compelling, but if you dig the formula, the band’s latest is enjoyably red, white, and bloody.

Anti-Flag has always been driven by political and social causes, with condemnations of the status quo, searing tales of human rights abuses, and calls for social revolution making up virtually the entirety of the band’s catalog. Unsurprisingly, their newest effort takes aim at the modern world’s harshest and most publicized injustices—from the wealth gap (“The Great Divide”) to the turmoil of the Middle East (“Sky is Falling,” “Set Yourself on Fire”) to recent man-made environmental disasters (“The Debate Is Over (If You Want It)”). 

As always, the political fury feels refreshingly authentic—the album booklet includes essays corresponding to each track as well as a list of dozens of books, films, activist groups, and media sources for listeners to explore.  While most will probably find Anti-Flag’s far-left politics a little hard to swallow, the band’s heart definitely seems in the right place.  Even if you don’t have a burning desire to read the recommended Howard Zinn and Cornel West texts after finishing the album, it’s inspiring to see a group care so deeply about their cause.    

This marks the band’s first release on the awesomely named Spinefarm Records, but American Spring still sounds very much like the Anti-Flag fans will recognize.  Spiky pop-punk riffs and musclebound bass lines provide a bashing backdrop for the dual vocals of frontman Justin Sane and bassist Chris #2, both of whom bring a unique energy to the table.  Though he’s now over 40, Sane still sounds like the world’s angriest and most literate 14-year-old, and Chris #2’s impassioned, throaty wail gives the proceedings a hardcore edge.  Clean production and soaring hooks combine with turbulent sonic fury for a product that sounds like leftover Crack by way of All Time Low—in other words, the signature Anti-Flag sound.

Guest stars inject some flavour—Rancid’s Tim Armstrong adds his perfectly-suited slurred vocals to the mournful, late-night pub clap-along “Brandenburg Gate,” and former Anti-Flag producer Tom Morello adds gaudy guitar theatrics to “Without End”—but the highlights stick to the band’s guns.  “Sky is Falling” uses a stomping riff to paint a harrowing picture of life in a war zone, and “To Hell With Boredom” accentuates its free-your-mind message with repeated cries of “NO ONE CARES UNTIL YOU’RE DEAD!”  It’s not exactly subtle, but it is an effective, high-decibel thrill—fist-pumping chant-alongs have always been Anti-Flag’s stock in trade.        

Save the topical lyricism, this batch of songs could have come off any Anti-Flag record from the last ten years, but that’s part of the appeal.  Anti-Flag have always been as unsubtle as their name, digging in their heels and churning out a steady stream of anti-nationalism anthems and mosh-pit manifestos without concessions to mainstream radio or, well, anyone outside of their devoted core fan base.  This newest album keeps the adrenaline pumping and the heads banging, and while it won’t win over converts, it’s a strong showing for the un-killable political punks.  Bring on album eleven.

Favourite Tracks: “The Great Divide” “All of the Poison, All of the Pain”

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