Anti-Flag has been pushing to awaken of the apathetic global populace since their inception. They’ve supported various non-profit organizations like PETA, Greenpeace and Amnesty International, and have attended countless rallies by playing protest songs on the streets. But they’re still waiting. As might be expected from a band born from such vicious condemnation of modern consumerism and economic imperialism, they’re beginnings started wrought in unbridled anger.
But after nearly two decades, their sound has become far more strategic. Like a rebellious adolescent realizing that they will inevitably live their life in the very world they’re fighting against, Anti-Flag’s current form has been decidedly more approachable than their early years. Comparing A New Kind Of Army to anything post For Blood And Empire is like slugging it out in the trenches versus being told about being in the trenches. While purists might have you believe the former is preferable, trenches are actually repulsive, disgusting cesspools of disease. You’d likely have a better time watching Band of Brothers than following in their footsteps. The same principal loosely applies to Anti-Flag’s legacy.
Each passing album finds Anti-Flag intentionally expanding their sound into a more accessible form, downplaying the singular riot scuffles and protest war-cries by expanding into broad themes and big, flavourful anthems. While that might sound like punk-rock betrayal, lyrics like, “across the great divide lies the rich and poor, a rotting melting pot, of haves and have nots, so fix your bayonets, this is war,” still provoke radical thinking under a spotlight of addictive chorus hooks. In other words Anti-Flag is a leader in reaching and connecting with the biggest audience possible without compromising their raison d’etre. Songs like “Brandenburg Gate” coat messages of hope and resilience in tuneful, gang-flooded climaxes born of age old “woah-oh-oh” vocal melodies (aided by a cameo from Rancid’s Tim Armstrong). Infused with searing pop hooks, the songs and messages will linger in memory well beyond their runtime. At it’s core, American Spring is an album that can be listened to over and over again without losing steam.
The album comes scattered with a host of angsty highs leading the pack with a rumble of riff rolling punches. Highlights like “Walk Away” challenge listeners to sift through the day to day and discover their own potential as agents of change. The band pleads directly with their audience, tossing around accusations of blind indifference: “walk away walk away, that’s what you always do, be the same be the same, cause they want you to, there must be more to life than this.” Guitars cut deep as riffs amplify Anti-Flag’s finger-wagging allegations that ignorance remains every bit as detrimental to finding a solution as the instigators. Some of American Spring’s biggest and best moments of shred it up in the short bouts of fury making up “To Hell With Boredom,” but also completely reel it back in for those sing-along fist raisers like “Low Expectations” and “The Debate Is Over (If You Want It).”
When the dust settles, American Spring stands as a really well rounded Anti-Flag album. The disc is rough, tough and boasts a surprisingly easy flow for such a combative statement. Anti-Flag channels their political distrust into a social justice mission that’s every bit as catchy as it is commanding. If American Spring proves anything, it’s that after all these years Anti-Flag’s edge remains as sharp as ever, and that should be all fans really need to hear.