By Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)
One year ago, the sun rose on a brand new America. Of course, this was not reminiscent of the hope that Barack Obama inspired 8 years previous, more the four-year clusterfuck that Donald Trump’s election had fired the starting gun on.
All throughout this period, slack-jawed yokels cared not that millions were about to be uninsured or deported, but that “Woo, at least this’ll be a good time for punk!”. A blase and ridiculous comment to make, but a correct one as American punk heroes Anti-Flag are back with their first album since 2015’s American Spring, the aptly titled American Fall.
Surprisingly enough, this album has one theme flowing throughout it; negativity decrying the fall of the American nation: whodathunkit? Nature enthusiasts will also tell you that this album’s lineage has skipped summer, flying straight into the murky nothingness that fall (or autumn for us Brits, God save the Queen her taxes!), “fall” isn’t the season, it’s the complete collapse of the system.
The opening track, American Attraction starts with an ethereal and eerie guitar solo, but soon gets thrown out the way for some good old-fashioned punky drum beats & huge riffs. American Attraction could be a metaphor for the attractiveness of er… America with the lyrics referencing guns, bombs, blood & drugs, with the line “There’s no escaping the American Attraction” feeling pretty poignant. America can seem like a pretty attractive place looking from the outside, but on the inside, it’s just guns & blood all the time. And the fucking Kardashians.
It’s clearly surprising that a punk band have a lot to say about society, but Anti-Flag has burst straight out the gate with this one, pulling no punches as they give a play-by-play commentary on the state of the crooked nation.
Angst & delusion at the American Dream course through the veins of this album, whilst offering a no-bullshit approach to music. It’s classic fast-paced punk rock, with The Criminals a textbook example of an angsty punk track, decrying the modern civilian lifestyle in the US of A, tackling topics such as healthcare & guns, two hot-button subjects in a shattered state. Whilst this feels like a textbook punk album, nothing feels generic or factory fresh, allowing you to be battered by sauntering riffs and smashing drums, keeping you hooked whilst they give their sermon on the mount.
However, it wouldn’t be classic punk without a bit of anarchy and Armageddon – so When the Wall Falls (gee, no points for guessing what THAT’s about) sounds like modern jazz. On a punk record! Jazz! The anarchy! However, they could create a gospel fusion record and still get their message across in a clear & concise way, whilst still retaining a sense of urgency in their call to arms.
The only criticism you could level at this album is that it’s not clear on what inspired this album. You know, a song called When the Wall Falls? Racists? Who is this album about?! What’s caused this album to happen? The mind boggles. However, the biggest praise is that this album, much like their counterparts who’ve trod the same ground of protest music before them, is that not only do they hold the microphone to their lips, they hold it to the lips of millions of marginalised, downtrodden & forgotten people; they are the voice of the voiceless.
There isn’t a song on this album that doesn’t pack a punch or carry a strong message. Every song is a call to arms to stand up and be counted. There’s no ambiguity in Anti-Flag’s message. You’re taken on a political rollercoaster, and anyone who’s never been on that wacky ride will come out as a fan of rollercoasters… or politics. You pick the metaphor here. Whilst this album decries the American Fall, there also feels like there’s a message of hope in every word of every song. Things WILL get better, but only if we all squad up and work together.
With that being said, the album also ends on a positive note, with Casualty giving a voice to the oppressed masses who’ve felt ashamed to be who they are.