Sound — 6
Your reaction to this album will most likely depend on where you stood on its predecessor, 2009's "The People Or The Gun". To a large extent, "The General Strike" is the natural follow up for Anti-Flag; the previous album focused its criticisms on the economic disaster, this one concerns the subsequent fallout. As such, we get what we expect, a mix of string-thrashing wrath and fist-pumping anthems. The album kicks off with a mix of the two; "Controlled Opposition" is 21 seconds of pure rage, before the aptly-named "Neoliberal Anthem" begins. Repeat for 9 more songs, basically. Far be it from me, a huge Anti-Flag fan, to accuse these guys of a lack of imagination, but only a handful of songs here possess any kind of individuality or memorability. The nod-inducing bassline, complimented by typical Anti-Flag "whoa"'s in "This Is The New Sound" is one highlight, whilst the vitriol of scarily-titled "I Don't Wanna" is another. But then there are songs such as "Bullsh-t Opportunist" which are vitriolic to the point of losing their way, and "Resist" simply sounds like a mash-up of two unfinished songs, chucked in to make up the numbers. Ultimately, the sound is almost identical to that of "The People Or The Gun", which is perhaps why I find it so unremarkable.
Lyrics — 6
Lyrically, this is a mixed bag. "1915" is an interesting effort at an anthem for modern day Wobblies that does serve to once again set the band apart from other acrimonious punks - they do know their stuff. This is also evident in one of the album's better songs "Nothing Recedes Like Progress" and "The Ranks Of The Masses Rising", in which Justin Sane includes a nod to the Arab Spring and maybe a little wordplay in "shake-down/sheikh down". Contemporary issues and events are also addressed in "I Don't Wanna" featuring mandatory references to Guantanamo and 9/11, etc. But also an interesting swipe at Westboro Baptist Church hate-monger Fred Phelps; "I don't wanna wait for Fred Phelps to f--king die". Whilst I'm sure many listeners will perhaps quietly feel the same, this does seem to represent something of a hypocrisy; you'd hope Anti-Flag would be mature enough to avoid wishing death on someone. Elsewhere, we stumble across uninspired and generic ground with "This Is The New Sound" (it isn't), and "The Neoliberal Anthem", neither of which rouse this listener quite as much as they want to, but also somewhat new ground in "The Ghosts Of Alexandria" a strangely, though refreshingly, positive and unexpected end to the album.
Overall Impression — 6
Perhaps the main flaw with this album is that it is trying to be something. This album is trying to be the soundtrack to the "Occupy..." movement, this album is trying to kick-start some left-wing revolution in the US. But really, the songs just aren't that great. You can't fault Anti-Flag for their passion and ever-present anger, but this is an album that lacks imagination, consistency and that unnamed quality that made previous efforts such as "The Terror State" and "For Blood And Empire" so rousing, memorable and significant. It's not a bad album, but it is far from a classic, and after 3 years away, you would have hoped for better from a band who should be creatively thriving in such times of economic hardship.