For the first time in my life I was enjoying ironing for 2 hours with this new Anti-Flag album at high volume accompanying me. Yes, you kids, that's what a father of 2 with a girlfriend that's working on a saturday does in his spare time. Fuck, it's guys like these feminist bastards that have caused the world to evolve into this situation! (joke, OK?) Maybe they also experienced this "positive" evolution, because the subject isn't present in any of the songs on this, their fourth album. Instead, all of the 13 songs focus on political issues, and I agree that that's a far more important issue in this US pre-election period, where every sane person on this globe should be aware that there's no room for another period of Bush despotism.
With the review of "Underground Network", their previous album, I wrote that I found the lyrics quite cliché. And let's be honest, they still are; all the slogans, one-liners, thoughts and ideas should have been heard by all of you, if you at least took the trouble reading through some of the peace-press or zines lately, if you looked into some Howard Zinn or Noam Chomsky or paid a visit to punkvoter.com. But as cliché as it gets, it just can't be repeated enough, so let's credit Anti-Flag for doing this. I'm quite assured that this "social justice image" that this band has been creating for themselves over the last decade isn't just a promotional stunt, proven by the fact that whenever there was a chance to manifest themselves for the good cause, they were present (playing Plea For Peace Tour, Pittsburgh Peace Converge Rally, attending countless demonstration and a hearing for Mumia Abu-Jamal to name a few).
The music on this album is astonishingly addictive people! You'll be able to sing along with Justin Sane's sometimes pitched vocals in no time, just as I was. Damn, I only listened to this album 6 times or so, and I already picked up most of these choruses. The backings are phenomenal, the guitars are hefty and there's not a trace of chaos in there. Instead there's room for mostly melodic punkrock, sometimes leaning towards Good Riddance alike hardcore. Yet, I can't undo myself of the impression that there's some kind of an Oi-ish unity feeling in this music, but I guess that has to do with the sloganesque lyrics.
"Turncoat" kicks off the album with the best sing-along chorus on the disc and a direct attack to the killing, lying and thieving George. It got me wondering if there are people working for (or related to) the US government who look into this kind of music. But yeah, it's a free country I guess. Engineering was done by Nick Didia (Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, …). That other protest-guy, Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine and Audioslave, produced the album, and it obviously influenced Anti-Flag's sound in the songs "Death Of A Nation", at least the second part, and "Post-War Breakout". This last song, which is an odd-one-out because of the more laid-back and rotating guitarsound, is built around 40 year-old lyrics from Woody Guthrie, who was a political activist, songwriter and social critic.
Actually, this album has no highlights, because it's a highlight in itself. All these songs are magnificent for different reasons, some of them reminding of Bouncing Souls ("Rank-N-File", "Tearing Down The Borders"), others of Good Riddance ("Sold As Freedom", "You Can Kill The Protester…"), there's quite accessible stuff ("Mind The G.A.T.T."), super guitarlicks and vocal melodies ("Operation Iraqi…", "When You Don't Control…"). But THE main strength of this album are without a doubt the aforementioned catchy choruses that will be glued to your brain in no time and invite to sing along.
Anti-Flag really impressed me with this album. They managed to break with the basic punksound from their earlier releases and implemented a much more hardcore sound, without losing the accessibity to their music. In short, "One People, One Struggle, One to reflect, One to sing along to, One Album to Buy".