Sound — 1
This album, with the hypocritical stamp of RCA (major labels are not necessarily bad, but they are counter to what Anti-Flag supposedly preaches), holds a hollow sound that has confirmed the fate of Anti-Flag as a musical product, not a musical band. It saddens me most, as I had many grand memories tied to my teenage angst whilst listening to Die For The Government, Underground Network (essentially everything they made before The Terror State, which was a slight stumble, but the actual last true anti-flag album compared to the RCA output). "Angry Young & Poor", "Mobilize", "Die For Your Government", "Culture Revolution"; these are Anti-Flag at their best, and this album does a disservice to any remaining hardcore fans who listen to their albums, release after release, expecting at the very least, efforts towards quality that would be comparable to their previous works. For Blood & Empire had that effort, as did The Terror State; this album doesn't at all. Anti-Flag should publicly apologize to their fans, who have supported them, and promise to actually care in any possible future albums. The only redeeming sound in this entire album are the bass lines, which are sadly muddied down a bit due to a terrible attempt at making Anti-Flag sound "grand" & "versatile". These riffs are generic, arena-rock tinged trash, the tempos are (mostly) tortuously slow for punk, the drums sound automatic & lazy, and the vocals sound well, like Justin Sane in the previous albums, only with what is supposed to pass as "melodic whining. I almost felt like downing a 32 pack of Keystone (yes, Keystone in specific) in an effort to kill the memory cells associated with my listening experience. The average track length is an uncharacteristic 3 1/2 minutes, which used to be 2 Anti-Flag songs with 4 times the amount of work put in them, and if you want to sample how truly terrible this album is, look no further then these three tracks: "Good and Ready", "If You Wanna Steal (You Better Learn How To Lie)", and *especially* "Go West"; this track is actually *worse* than One Trillion Dollars, since it has the entire band making terrible music, and not just Justin & his acoustic "gitar".
Lyrics — 1
Anti-Flag hasn't done anything different on this latest album, at leas, nothing different that helps contribtute to the making of a 'good' album. They still bitch and moan about the same, vauge problems & protests of government, politicians, capitalism (despite signing to a major label) that they've done since their first album. The lyrics really speak for themselves here, with the following as an example which seems to pass for "insight" & and poetry for "punk-rock" nowadays (with obvious exceptions; not all punk bands are pandering to the post-music video Reality TV MTV celebrity worship generation): "the bright lights of America/ life and death in a sold out 'Merica/ to live and die in the heart of America/ where they sell souls." I wrote more insightful comments in my 9th grade english class. Anti-Flag seem to still be trapped in this post-911, Bush hating tirade that almost every punk band jumped on the bandwagon for at least one album since it was an easy, & more than welcome target at some point (Pennywise's last decent album, From The Ashes, the slightly risky & topical but interesting experimentation of Bad Religion's The Empire Strikes First, NOFX's now in hindsight an embarrassment, "The War on Errorism"). Yes, Bush sucks, the world is ending, politicians are taking advantage of us, blah blah blah; it's been pounded in our heads time & time again. It's not 2001 anymore, it's 2008, please, deal with it & move on. The least they could've done was change their topics; instead, it sounds as if they based their songs on generic poems while trying to sound like wistful musicians who no longer recognize the world. In reality, they are the ones who cannot recognize themselves anymore. There are hints of the old anti-flag somewhere in this album, in possibly one or two songs (the only song sounding remotely interesting being "the Smartest bomb", which reminds one of a much better song, "Got The Numbers"), but otherwise, this is anti-flag in name only. I have yet to hear the bonus tracks, and I have some hidden hope that they simply made a lot more bad choices in the tracklisting than a better album would've allowed, but at this point, I'm not holding my breath.
Overall Impression — 1
Anti-Flag's true sound was not intelligent, it was slightly clever hardcore punk that played fast & didn't compromise. If I was convinced Justin Sane, at this point, should consider his tired vocals while considering changing his name to Just Inane, was the sole cause of this change, I would fully advocate a public spanking for the terrible album this band has produced. This really the worst I've listened to since the newest Avril Lavigne album (with any new reggaton being a close 2nd). If you must listen to any new output by the band, go for "For Blood & Empire"; while much poppier than their previous albums, it still retained (excluding the terrible moaning Justin Sane did on the pseudo-sap one trillion dollars) their penchant for fast paced protest songs, which for the most part, did not overtly repeat themselves. Otherwise, just take all their older albums, throw in some of the good live bootlegs (what little there is), and make custom playlists since this band has run out of ideas. You may not agree with my review, and in fact hate it, but I post this review in face of the overtly beaming and non-critical reviews that would encourage a band that they are releasing good music. In final, this is what "The New America" could've been for Bad Religion: a career ender. I desperately hope the band listens to outside perceptions of this album, in an effort to rediscover what made them great, which can found in any albums, even the pop-saturated For Blood & Empire, previous to The Bright Lights of America. And no, I would not buy this, at all, so would be no chances of it being stolen. I would've given this section a 2 or a 3, since I did like one single song & haven't heard the bonus tracks (not sure if I'll say "yet", either), but then I saw the album cover again, which looks almost as ridiculous as this album sounds. Best track: The Smartest Bomb. Worst Track: Everything Else.