Sound — 7
It was only last year that Anti-Flag put out The Bright Lights Of America', an album which, for the first time in their history, took a significant stylistic step away from the simple, fun punk tunes they'd become known for. The fact that they were still signed to a major label didn't help and the sellout' finger was still being pointed by some. With great haste the band has left Sony, signed to indie label SideOneDummy and put out a disc that makes a blatant attempt to be that stripped down return to form clich. With most bands it would be simple enough to avoid skepticism and just enjoy the music but Anti-Flag are a band who insist on their own relevance and integrity, so it's only fair they're called out on it. However, for the sake of reasonable evaluation, the nitpicking side of me will hereafter be focusing its cynicism towards the US government only.
Powerchords and mid-range leads? Check. Infectious chants? Check. The odd moment of punkier grit? Check. This may not come as a shock to you, but The People Or The Gun' is more of the same winning formula, although at this point in a band's career ideas can start to wear thin and many a scroll will be made through your music library to see just which riff or melody Anti-Flag just borrowed from their extensive back catalogue. The basic energy is still present as ever, though, and Pat Thetic once again drums his way through a collection of variations on that very Warped Tour sound. Unfortunately some the more intricate basslines of Chris #2 are less frequent this time; perhaps this could be attributed to the stripping down' of the music but his fiddly lines have always been a major outlet for memorability.
Lyrics — 7
Anti-Flag have always had a knack for penning very effective refrains that, aside from bolstering live shows with another level of crowd reaction, drive their messages home with a lot more force. Lyrics like We are not human resources/we are human beings fill that criteria quite nicely (though I'll bet Norwich Union's advertising agency will be pissed) but there are some real flops as well; it's disheartening to see them include throwaway lines like I can smell the bullshit from right here which only seem to serve the purpose of filling out another two bars and completing another rhyme. As a matter of routine for a reviewer talking about a 2009 punk album, a question must be asked: /How do [band name] cope without having George Bush to fling their faeces at?/ Well, children, not all that badly. Their words have always been a little bit juvenile and a little bit inconsistent but some ideas on the economy and war are once again expressed with varying levels of success.
The vocals themselves, on the other hand, are strong as ever. This time both Justin Sane and Chris #2 have pumped more vitriol into their voices so that they can stand out even as a part of The Gre(a)t Depression's ensemble cast (which sounds to me like it may feature guests from Rise Against and Rancid, among others) and Clash-esque vamp. Both Justin and Chris' vocal tradeoff has never worked so well as it does in You Are Fired (Take This Job)', with lead and backing vocals weaving together effectively.
Overall Impression — 7
Interviews tell us that the band recorded 17 songs for this album, and decided to bring that down to 10 which would make the final cut. With that kind of quality control in place, you would have to hope that all 10 songs really struck a chord but unfortunately there are a couple of tracks (This Is The First Night' being a fine example) which only just seem to acknowledge their own existence when put next to The Old Guard', On Independence Day', Sodom, Gomorrah, Washington D.C.', the highlights. There's a definite live' feel (more so than the misfire of Mobilize') so it should be worth heading out to see them on one of their extensive tours so you too can join in with the group chants, the circle pits and the false sense of worldly awareness; Anti-Flag style.