- The lyrics on 'Liar', 'Digital Blackout', and 'Rascists' are as sharp as Anti-Flag have ever been.
- The punk rock instrumentation sounds tight.
- Some tracks sound quite tame in comparison to Anti-Flag's previous work.
- That even Anti-Flag can't write enough songs about just how messed up the world is right now.
With Donald Trump in the White House, political unrest with Russia, war in the Middle-East, and corruption visibly rife among the political elite, now seems like the perfect time for Anti-Flag to release their latest album ‘American Fall’. Formed in 1988, and reformed again in 1992, Anti-Flag have long supported organisations such as Democracy Now!, PETA, and Greenpeace, and have been outspoken in their criticism of war, corporate greed, and mindless nationalism. You only have to listen to previous songs such as ‘Die For The Government’ and ‘1 Trillion Dollar$’ to know that what the band stands for is more a mission statement of intent rather than just a list of high ideals.
‘American Fall’ comes off the back of the well received ‘American Spring’ released in 2015, and picks up their well worn anti-establishment messages on songs such as ‘Liar’, which laments the state of today’s consumerist culture. Meanwhile, ‘Racists’ points out the racist subtext used in society by groups of people to justify certain view points but which increases division. These tracks will more than satisfy the long time fans, with their brand of rigid punk rock providing the tension that their overtly political messages are built upon. ‘Liar’ in particular is a frenetic, fast-paced, rip-roaring track which would fit perfectly on their 2006 album ‘For Blood And Empire’ with it’s driving bassline and lead singer Justin’s stingingly delivered vocal.
It’s interesting to note at this point that ‘American Fall’ was co-produced by Good Charlotte‘s Benji Madden, who’s influence is quite clearly audible on a number of tracks here. However, while that style works fine for a band such as Good Charlotte, it does not quite work as well for Anti-Flag on this record, where tracks such as ‘Trouble Follows Me’ and ‘I Came. I Saw. I Believed.’ suffer a little from a lack of real impetus because of the pop punk treatment given to them. Elsewhere, ‘When The Wall Falls’ sees the band dabble in ska punk, a genre which sticks out like a sore thumb among the tightly arranged punk rock songs on the rest of the record.
If anything, ‘American Fall’ is more mid-paced than any previous Anti-Flag record and, in an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, bassist Chris #2 suggests this is because the band want their message to be more accessible for people. You can’t help but feel, however, that had the band posted a few darker, more aggressively toned tracks such as the excellent follow up track to ‘Liar’, ‘Digital Blackout’, the gap between accessibility and providing the biting, furious vehicle which their politics thrives on would have been bridged more effectively.
Still, in the end Anti-Flag‘s sharp lyrics manage to make up most of the shortfall provided by the pop-punk production. It’s an admirable achievement that, nearly 30 years on, Anti-Flag continue to call out what’s wrong with the world while other similar bands of equal longevity have long since moved towards commercial radio purgatory. If they can build on the wild energy of tracks like ‘Liar’, they may have many more years ahead of them yet.