Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Album Review: American Spring by Anti-Flag

Politics and punk rock are two things that have always gone hand in hand. In the world of modern punk music there is no bigger and more successful politically charged band than Pittsburgh's Anti-Flag. Since forming in 1988 the band have released ten studio albums, the most recent being American Spring which was released by Spinefarm Records in May. I checked it out.

Before I even started listening to the album I was amazed by it just by looking at the artwork on the cover and liner notes. The level of detail is incredible. People often say to me why do you still buy physical music and not just download it, this is the exact reason why. I just love looking at the artwork, especially when so much care and detail has gone into the content.

American Spring starts off with a song named Fabled World. The track opens fast but simply with just lead singer Justin Sane and a guitar as he sings out the opening few lines before the rest of the band join him to create that classic Anti-Flag sound. I can already imagine this song being popular live. The song itself is about living in a world full of lies and how dreams are often very different to reality. The Great Divide is a fast, hard hitting song about the class war. At just one minute and twenty-eight seconds long there is no time to pause for a breathe throughout the song but this just makes the song even more effective at putting the bands message across. The third song Brandenburg Gate is one of the stand out tracks on the album. Compared to the opening two songs it feels slower and the guitar tones have a nice Rancid vibe to them, perhaps not surprising considering that legendary Rancid front man Tim Armstrong provides some guest vocals for the song. This is the Anti-Flag version of a love song, it tells the tale of being in love with someone on the opposite side of a war and arranging to meet up somewhere when it's over. The chorus of this song is superbly catchy and the subject matter feels unique and interesting. Sky Is Falling is the longest track on American Spring. It's paced at a mid tempo speed and is the first song on the album to really utilise bass player Chris #2's throaty yells alongside Justin Sane's vocals and gives the song a powerful feeling of urgency. Sky Is Falling is about everything seemingly crumbling down around you and feeling like there is no way out. Something everyone has related to at some point.

The fifth track Walk Away is a real foot stomper. Chris #2 takes lead vocal duties and instantly gives the song a darker feel. This is another track I can see being a very popular part of Anti-Flags live set, with it's big chorus of "Walk Away, Walk Away, It's What You Always Do, Be The Same, Be The Same, As They Want You To, There Must Be More To Life Than This, There Must Be More To Life Than This." Song For Your Enemy sees Anti-Flag slip into full of anthem mode. Musically the song is a bit of a rollercoaster, switching for crunching guitars, do slowed down thoughtful chords to a pounding beat for the chorus, it has it all. To complete any great anthem there are plenty of whoa-oh moments during the song that will get big reactions from any crowd. The seventh song on the album Set Yourself On Fire starts out similarly to opener Fabled World with Justin singing along with just his guitar before the band kick in. The song is about slefish people who only look out for themselves and hoping that everything goes wrong for someone with such a rubbish outlook on life. More unique subject matter from Anti-Flag.

The second half of American Spring begins with a song called All Of The Poison, All Of The Pain. This is another song about escape, in particular all of the rubbish from the past. Again they've gone down the route of having just vocals and a guitar to start the song. I like the affect it gives but three times in the first eight songs feels a bit like overkill. I really enjoyed the overall sound of the track though, reminds me of one of my favourite bands - The Briggs. Something else I really enjoyed was the intro for the next song Break Something. There's some interesting guitar work before a pause. What infact is a most two seconds feels like ages and adds a great deal of suspense to the song. The song is insanely catchy and will have you singing along to the chorus after just a couple of listens. Without End is another Anti-Flag punk anthem. Drummer Pat Thetic plays some simple sounding but very interesting beats throughout the song. Whilst keeping the traditional sound of the band this song feels poppier than any of their previous work. The guitar solo in the middle of Without End is superb and anyone who says that punk rock is just three chords needs to listen to this song to be proven wrong. Believer is one of my favourite songs on American Spring. As I'm sure you can guess from the title of the song the song is about standing up for what you believe in and fighting the good fight. The chorus will allow for massive fist in the air sing a-long's, Sane adds some great whoa-oh harmonies as well to give the song a bigger sound.

To Hell With Boredom is the shortest track on the album being only forty-eight seconds long but my word it packs a punch in that small amount of time. This is by far the most aggressive song on the album with lyrics like "Happiness Is Hanging Your Landlord, No One Cares Until You're Dead." Despite this aggression though the again promotes a fairly positive message about doing what you love and not worrying about the consequences because nobody will care until you're gone. Low Expectations is another song that I really enjoyed. On this song Anti-Flag seem to have taken inspiration from The Menzingers style of punk rock. I think that it is really cool that a long running band like Anti-Flag would find inspiration from in comparison a relatively new band on the punk rock scene. American Spring finishes with the song The Debate Is Over (If You Want It). This track begins with a great Pat Thetic drumbeat and some gang vocaled whoa-ohs that give the impression that something big is about to happen. The song is the perfect closer for the album with it's big sound and plenty of gang vocals. It's about picking your own side in an arguement and not just going along with what "the man" whoever it may be says. 

I have been off the punk rock radar for a little while so I may have missed the build up but this Anti-Flag record felt a lot less hyped than previous releases from the band. This has definitely helped it for me because I didn't come in expecting the album of the year but after listening to it there is a good chance it will finish very highly in my end of year lists.

Check out more from Anti-Flag here: 

Now listening to Apology by 5 Cent Deposit

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