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Anti-Flag – American Spring

These songs aren’t, as I first took them to be, an ambiguous and lazy attempt to rile up anger against nothing in particular, they are rather rife with conviction and reflect very real, if ambiguous, personal views of the band.

Few records have grown on me like Anti-Flag’s American Spring. I tend to be apprehensive when approaching modern political punk records that haven’t come from the heart of the underground, partially because I’m still ashamed for thinking Green Day’s 21st Century Breakdown was a good record when I was 15 and mainly because I think that the political punk music of the seventies and eighties – the classics – will never be bested. American Spring doesn’t change my stance on that, it’s certainly not up there with the classics, not by anyone’s measurement; but it’s not down there with the pop trash that I expected it to be – or thought that it was, on the first few listens.

Perhaps my apprehensions can be forgiven when we look at the track listing for this album. “Fabled World”, “Song for Your Enemy”, “Break Something” – most of the titles, on first glance, scream of apathy disguised as concern, something that former late-era Green Day fans will be all too familiar with. The art of disguising apathy as political concern is something that many bands have done and continue to do in the poppier sectors of alternative music, bands have perfected the ability to pretend to give a shit whilst saying absolutely nothing in their lyricism apart from general, indirect anger at “the system” or the world or something along those lines. I greatly feared that this is what Anti-Flag were going for.

Anti-Flag generally succeed in making a statement on this record though, to my surprise. It’s not quite on the level of modern heavyweights Enter Shikari and Rise Against, who, like them or not, lace almost every song with obvious, relevant and directed political messages, using their mainstream appeal to rile up anger about something. Anti-Flag’s directed political anger lies more in the essays that come packaged with physical copies of the album, which I haven’t unfortunately had the opportunity to get hold of, but I have faith that they bring modern contextual relevance to otherwise ambiguous songs like “Fabled World” and “Walk Away”.

The album artwork – a Muslim woman on the front, an American soldier on the back, both with the very vivid and powerful flower imagery covering their facial features – also makes a stronger statement than I first grasped upon first listen to these songs. After reading an in-depth interview with Anti Flag (courtesy of Seeing Your Scene) and gaining some contextual relevance to the songs – the tragic murder of Chris’ sister and the failings of the American justice system in dealing with her case, mainly, something that inspired a lot of this album – I began to grasp that this is an album that tries very much to challenge greater, wider issues with the world with a genuine, often very personal, conviction. These songs aren’t, as I first took them to be, an ambiguous and lazy attempt to rile up anger against nothing in particular, they are rather rife with conviction and reflect very real, if ambiguous, personal views of the band. Which of course is nothing new in political punk music, but American Spring has endearing qualities in how it achieves getting this message over with tight musicianship and strong hooks.

This album is by no means particularly refreshing though, for the most part the messages in these songs have all been said numerous times before by many, many bands. The songs on this have a polished accessibility rather than a raw urgency, and will fail to rile up anger in any seasoned punk veteran. However, in its very personal conviction, it achieves two things: firstly, it means that the album has some touching and inspiring moments – “Brandenburg Gate” and “Without End” will definitely be held as top Anti-Flag songs due to how they ooze with classic punk spirit (if not sound). Secondly, the album acts as a great introduction to political punk and perhaps politics to young punks listening to this without prior interest in those things – it’s an introduction to opening your eyes to the injustices that most of us older lot already concern ourselves about that some kids will definitely take to heart. That’s important, after all – 21st Century Breakdown was a shit record but it definitely sparked an interest in political punk for me, and this is far from being a shit record.

Anti-Flag - American Spring

Track list:
1. Fabled World
2. The Great Divide
3. Brandenburg Gate
4. Sky is Falling
5. Walk Away
6. Song for your Enemy
7. Set Yourself on Fire
8. All of the Poison, All of the Pain
9. Break Something
10. Without End
11. Believer
12. To Hell with Boredom
13. Low Expectations
14. The Debate is Over (If You Want It)

Anti-Flag are:
Justin Sane – Guitars/Vocals
Chris Head – Guitar
Chris #2 – Bass/Vocals
Pat Thetic – Drums

Anti-Flag band 2015

More Anti-Flag:
Official Website
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Chris Kanski
About Chris Kanski (6 Articles)
Chris is frequently found in London's many rat holes, wasting away his time watching bands that will be forgotten in two weeks. Nicknamed 'King Mosh' by his associates, he prides himself on his participation in the UK punk scene. He knows full well that he won't be proud anymore when he grows up and realises all the music he currently listens to is shit. Chris rambles about punk, metal and hip hop in United Underground Zine: https://www.facebook.com/unitedundergroundzine

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