American FallSpinefarm Records
By Cole Faulkner
Anti-Flag’s Spinefarm Records debut, American Spring, was a strong, anthemic album. A great launching pad from which to establish themselves on their new home, and from which to lead into its sister namesake and follow up, American Fall. Serving as the band’s tenth full length, American Fall also marks a new collaboration with producer Benji Madden. Madden is no stranger to sitting in the producer booth, but considering his pop-orientation, the pairing with Anti-Flag may be surprising. In many regards American Fall contains a few steps in different directions, and one has to wonder if Madden’s influence bares any responsibility.
Opener “American Attraction” may throw longtime fans for a loop. The track plays out like a straight up hard rock song, with heavy guitar licks punctuating each tract of vocals, and the tempo stomping away at the pace of a lumbering giant. While Anti-Flag has never chased the radio waves, this song feels targeted to a more conventional audience – even more so than major label counterparts Rise Against. That being said, the track is consistent with the band’s portrayal of society’s blind acceptance of American spektacle and Anti-Flag’s counter culture sentiment remains in tact. Several track later, “Throw It Away” follows the same rock-heavy framework, but with somewhat less production gloss. On the opposite side of the spectrum, the passion of “I Came. I Saw. I Believed.” feels somewhat muted thanks to a pop-tinted production that seems to compromise the anger of the lyrics. This is a recurring issue that hinders certain tracts of American Fall. “Finish What We Started” suffers the same fate, featuring an outright addictive gang driven chorus diluted by bubbly basswork that would sound more in place on a Patent Pending album. The change in direction presented in these circumstances becomes a little less disorienting with each passing listen, but they tend to live in the shadow of the ediger tracks in between.
A strong selection of more familiar sounds serve to counter some of of these questionable decisions. “The Criminals” comes bolstered with very targeted guitar and the band’s outright angry call to denounce a corrupt political system. A chorus of passionately landing “woah-oah” accompaniment make for a melodic and memorable chorus. “When The Wall Falls” channels the same classic Anti-Flag feel through a well suited and sparingly executed upstroke that leads into the chorus, “if the come for you in the night, then they will come for me in the morning.” Every Anti-Flag album has a sense of danger in resistance, and while this track is mostly upbeat, there is always a reminder of the consequence for standing up for what you believe. Catchy mid-tempo tune “Racists” is the most explicitly damning anthem of the bunch, and it’s also the most likely to which you’ll sing along with. “Just ’cause you don’t know you’re racist… You don’t get a pass, get a pass for your ignorance” sings the band in harmony, to which they eventually add “sexist” and “fascist” in later verses. The song sends a strong message to those denying ownership over a national social crisis: “No you weren’t alive in the time of slavery / But that’s no excuse to ignore its legacy.” There are at least a handful of tracks that work quite well.
If anything, American Fall will be a polarizing album for fans. While the message is consistent with all of Anti-Flag’s work, the mode of delivery has shifted more than some may be comfortable with. Whether these differences can be credited to Madden’s perspective are up for debate, but the poppy, playful beats composing much of American Fall will likely be the source of much discussion.