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Review: American Fall by Anti-Flag

D'Arcy Briggs

February 11, 2018

With a cover featuring the Oval Office covered in stacks of money in the shape of a skull, it’s not hard to guess what is fueling Anti-Flag’s latest album. Since their last album’s release in 2015, the state of politics in the US has gone from bad to worse; or rather, the kinks in the capitalist machine are starting to show. Trump has given a new confidence and a new voice to the abhorrent and odious right wing. Attacks on democratic institutions and freedom are defended by centrists in the name of free speech. This puts Anti-Flag in the position where their views seem all the more radical, even if they haven’t changed.

Politically, the album might not be their most direct or charged, but it does easily call into question much of what is occurring around the world. As the track “The Criminals,” cries: “These are the days that test your heart and soul / Strap yourself in for the American Fall / Day after day it is all crash and burn / A nation hijacked by the criminals.” In the one ska song featured on the album, which could be Anti-Flag’s first ska song to date, they tackle intersectional issues such as gender, class, and race with lines like “Look outside your window, there's a woman being grabbed / They've voted with their reverence and a Bible in their hand / Maybe we should go outside and try to stop her pain / The anthem started playing and I'd hate to miss the game.”

While lyrically this album doesn’t seem as eloquent as some of their classics like The Terror State or Underground Network, it’s still surprisingly diverse. Tracks cover a wide range of topics, such as checking our privilege, substance abuse, as well as the group’s standards of anti-imperialist anthems. There isn’t necessarily an immediate standout on the album, with a chorus or message that will stick in your head for days, but I would move that “Racists” has an outstanding chorus with “ Just 'cause you don't know you're racist / A bigot with a check list / Just 'cause you don't know you're racist / You don't get a pass when you're talkin' your shit,” and an incredibly sharp verse with “Black lives matter and you don't know why / And reverse racism isn't a real thing / No you weren't alive in the time of slavery / But that's no excuse to ignore its legacy / Not afraid of refugees / But don't want a mosque built on your street.”

Musically this album follows the same steps that we’ve seen Anti-Flag take in recent years. It’s very anthemic, very polished, and draws more than a few comparisons to early Rancid, mid-career Greenday, or any band that was on Hellcat in the early-2000’s. It’s fun to see them play the melodic pop-punk route, but fans of their more straight-ahead style might find the album lacking. As mentioned earlier, the album also features a ska track, perhaps a first or at least a rarity for the band. Does it work? It certainly doesn’t fall flat, but I won’t be upset if the band sticks to the styles their known for.

Anti-Flag has been a powerful and popular voice with radical politics for decades, and this album shows the band playing with a passion that shows no sign of slowing down. While many have cried foul as they have worked with major labels, their unwavering support for grassroots movements and social justice is nothing but admirable.

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