Anti-Flag is a MASSIVE name in the punk sub-genre – coming in with aggressive political hits since 1992, with the release of their debut album, Die For Your Government.
Since then, they have gone through some musical changes as they steer away from aggressive hardcore-punk, to a more sonic pop-punk – coming to a head notably in their 2017 album, American Fall.
Over the years, Anti-Flag have toured with an incredible amount of musically diverse artists – ranging from Rise Against and Rage Against the Machine, to more -core influenced bands like Stray from the Path and Beartooth. With this influx of influence comes their THIRTEENTH studio album – Lies They Tell Our Children.
Lies They Tell Our Children is an eleven-track concept album covering socio-politically drenched topics such as the necessity of universal healthcare, environmental preservation, and wealth inequality.
Something that pops out at first glance with this newest entry is that of the 11 songs – only 4 of them do not feature another artist, whereas the remaining 7 do. As fun as features can be, I find it can sometimes be a hindrance to an overall listening experience, as you’re pulled out of the atmosphere that band has created, and more focused on when that featured artist will pop-up, and what they’ll bring to the song.
Though I understand that this is more a concept album, and admittedly had influence from the fact that they’ve always been surrounded by a musically diverse atmosphere – it would be remiss of me to not include this in my review. Whereas a track or two that features a relevant or fun artist can bring about a fresh, and often fan-favorite, take on the direction of the album as a whole – an album that consists almost entirely of features (with the exception of you, Apocalyptica) feels almost claustrophobic.
That’s not to say that the album is bad – by any means. It’s absolutely anthemic, and true to the core of Anti-Flag as it dissects what they feel is wrong with America. Front to back, it’s full of choruses that will refuse to leave your head – Intentionally so, as they attempt to drill into your head what’s wrong with your surroundings, and bring those ideas to the barest of essentials to take with you.
“Simplify the lyrics so the world can sing along
Can you hear me, hear me calling
I got this idea that I’m selling, for nothing
Can anybody hear me?
Does anybody care?”
LAUGH. CRY. SMILE. DIE, Anti-Flag (Ft. Shane Told)
There are definitely some bold choices done creatively for a punk-band. While they’ve always strayed to the pop-influenced side of pop-punk, a track that stood out in how it was written is IMPERIALISM. Featuring Ashrita Kumar, the vocalist of Pinkshift, the song sounds like a slightly heavier version of Toni Basil’s Hey Mickey, while lyrically darkly implicating that some countries we’re not used to labeling as “Imperialist”…might just be so. Having Ashrita come in for the bridge of the song to further that juxtaposition with some poppy-sass was a brilliant move.
On the other end of the creative spectrum, there was a choice to put SOLD EVERYTHING as the first track of the album. While the track itself is solid, the placement holds me back from my fullest enjoyment – It’s a quiet track that doesn’t build to anything – Not even a crescendo that leads to the second track, as it fades out just before the next. It’s powerful, and a wonderful song in and of itself, but it’s another choice that pulls away from my overall listening experience. It would have been FANTASTIC, however, as a sullen closer to the album.
While HAZARDOUS feels akin to an American Fall track – WORK & STRUGGLE, the ninth song on the record, feels straight out of For Blood and Empire, settling right next to The Press Corpse. It’s important for a band of this magnitude and longevity to strike a balance between all of the songs they’ve experimented with, to keep fans of each around – and they strike it well, blending each sound naturally as they accumulate in this momentous record.
Overall, it’s safe to say that Anti-Flag have once again hit the nail on the head on their abrasive, yet catchy, take on punk-rock, and brought in new and familiar vocalists to boot. While you may just be finding out about the band Pinkshift – can you BELIEVE Anti-Flag has a track featuring both Tim of RISE AGAINST, and Brian of BAD RELIGION? Though the amount of features can, at times, feel a bit claustrophobic when trying to just enjoy a band’s music, it doesn’t ever feel as though they phoned-in and let the feature carry any specific song. They brought all of their energy to each and every song and told a strong, passionate, political story. A the end of the day, what more could you ask of an Anti-Flag record?
Anti-Flag – Lies They Tell Our Children
Out 1/6/2022 via Spinefarm Records
MODERN META MEDICINE (ft. Jesse Leach, Killswitch Engage)
LAUGH. CRY. SMILE. DIE. (ft. Shane Told, Silverstein)
THE FIGHT OF OUR LIVES (ft. Tim Mcilrath, Rise Against and Brian Baker, Bad Religion)
IMPERIALISM (ft. Ashrita Kumar, Pinkshift)
VICTORY OR DEATH (WE GAVE ‘EM HELL) (ft. Campino of Die Toten Hosen)
SHALLOW GRAVES (ft. Tre Burt)
WORK & STRUGGLE
NVREVR (ft. Stacey Dee, Bad Cop/Bad Cop)
ONLY IN MY HEAD