5 November 2015

Anti-Flag - American Spring


You know, it comes to something when a third of someone’s collection passes you by without any sort of recognition!!!! Seriously, the last thing I heard from Anti-Flag was 'For Blood & Empire' and then I sort of drifted away and then they go and release three albums when I was not looking and this one just appeared out of nowhere for me as well.  To be honest, the only reason I knew it was coming was that they recently played Newcastle and then I found out about the record, seriously sometimes I am so far out of the loop it is unbelievable.  When I was younger, I loved 'Die for the Government' and 'A New Kind of Army', but I sorted drifted out of touch with what was going on as I started to discover other bands.  But to hear that they had released so many records since I had last heard them has put me to shame.  Anyway, Anti-Flag are a political punk band who have been around for years, when they eventually signed to a major label – RCA – they were accused of selling out (not by me, couldn’t care who they are signed to as long as the music sounded good) and have slowly moved into a more pop punk sound, whilst retaining a hardcore edge to their music.  It is with some trepidation that I review this one if I am honest, how much has changed since I last heard them and will it still ring true to these ears, have they watered down what they were about to such a degree that they lose relevance or have they toughened up over the years?  Well, there is only one way to find out…..
 
“Fabled World” is somewhere between their early shouting releases, Dropkick Murphy’s and Blink 182/+44 if I am honest; if you are looking for the music (not the lyrical content as that is still potent) of the band who created “Die for the Government” than I am afraid this is not for you already and we are only one song.  The music has changed, but still has that political bite which they first traded on; the vocals have become polished as well and it all feels a little safe if I am honest.  “The Great Divide” is a one minute plus bounce that does not have much in terms of speed, but once more is saved by their lyrics which is all about the injustice in the world.  It is over so quickly that it does not have the time to make much of an impression, but it does sound like another generic hardcore band with all originality remove – sorry but this could be so much better and we are only two tracks into a fourteen track album.  The third track features Tim Armstrong from Rancid and is called “Brandenburg Gate” which once more apes some many other bands when they did not have to, it is played to their abilities and once again the lyrics are spot on, but this is so far becoming very disappointing as other bands in the genre are able to run ring around them at this point, so far I am hearing nothing that is grabbing me.  “Sky Falling” goes for the slower style of song that was made popular by Green Day in punk circle, this is the first song that does not deliver on a lyrical level and that is to the detriment of the song.  It is something I have heard done better, by bands who I would have at one time considered to be less capable of topping Anti-Flag at this game.  “Walk Away” is a song that reminds me of Offspring with the song “Gone Away”, it is all about someone walking away from another human and leaving them alone.  A love song of sorts I am guessing, but it is not having the bite that came from this band.  Again it is played well, but is that what a song should be about – just being played well and having no spark?


“Song for your Enemy” is strange; it could be political or it could be about a former friend/lover/colleague.  I cannot decide if it is a joke, for real or all of the above.  Interpretation is a strong force in music and this is so wide open that it really could be about anything and nothing at the same time.  It is almost Zen in its ability to make me amused, angry and nonplussed in one song – bravo…..I think.  “Set Yourself on Fire” is musically the best song on the album so far, but lyrically it is no match for any of the first three song on the album.  It is a mid-paced punk song that is ok, nothing new or spectacular and once it is over you are not itching to hear it again – a little meh to say the least, but the music is decent for once on this record instead of tired. “All of the Poison, All of the Pain” actually makes more sense and once again musically it improves the record.  The lyrics are about repression, the music is decent if not brilliant and it makes this song one of the best of the album, but it has taken seven previous tracks to pass before we have one that is good – that is not a good ratio by anyone’s standards.  “Break Something” sadly does not break the recurring pattern of the record though, it has energy and will probably be really good in their live set; however it is sounds like an off-cut from a Billy Talent session that they abandoned as it was not going as well as they would have like.  The biggest problem that I have with this song is that once it is finished, I am struggling to remember the tune or lyrics – there is nothing memorable about it which is a sad state of affairs here.


“Without End” features extra guitars from Tom Morello and it breaks the back of this album for me, the song itself is one of the better numbers on this album, it has a big hook and Mr Morello does a stellar solo in the middle as you would expect from him – the problem is it could be one of the better songs on any number of pop punk albums, I can hear songs like this being played on the xFactor in their rock tribute show and that is the crux of it.  “Believer” has a small glimpse of hope for me, it has right amount of energy, lyrical bite and pace for me to get to grips with it.  However I am still not excited by the prospect of the song, it might be the best song on the album but it is only marginal at best.  “To Hell with Boredom” is less than a minute long, it has a punch and then I am struggling to remember it once again; I am at a loss here – short, sharp, forgetful……it could have been more but it is over so quickly that I am not sure it actually existed, repeated listening does not help.  The penultimate track is called “Low Expectations” could really have been about this review, I am not getting this album by this point and I am as disillusioned as the band sound at this point – oh well, it is almost over.  Ending this album is “The Debate is Over (If You Want It), which does not change this album for me one way or another.  It is with a sense of relief that this is over, with a fist pumping song that will have their fans happy at the end of the show, but leave me as cold as the vast majority of this album.


What happened?  I feel like Anti-Flag have been replaced by something akin to invasion of the body snatchers, it is only by some of the lyrics that make this bearable in places. I am not hearing passion in the music; I am hearing a band going through the motion being played at a professional level, yet without any real soul to speak of and that is not something that should happen to any band.  Punk when it is created without passion is dull, I am really sorry to say that Anti-Flag have created an album that is lacking a spark.  I hate it when others say ‘X’ band’s early output was the best, but that is sadly where I find myself with Anti-Flag now.  Maybe I missed the slow change and it has come as a shock to me, maybe it is not the case and this was the end result of their last session - but this album has brief moments and little else for me.  I think that it is time to bring this review to a close, as it would really be unfair to go on about it.  If this is what they want to continue doing, more power to them and their fans, I will not spend time on them as I think it would be unfair to them and myself to have me writing bad reviews and to them having a disgruntled fan who was not that committed in the first place; not sure they would care anyway as it is not as if I was Anti-Flag number one, I missed so many albums!!!!  I wish them well, but this is not for me.


4 out of ten - Well it is alright, but still......

Top track - Believer


You can purchase American Spring from Amazon here

You can visit the Anti-Flag website here

You can follow the activities of Anti-Flag on Facebook here 

You can stream American Spring on Spotify here 

You can stream American Spring on Deezer here 

You can stream American Spring on Tidal here

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