The opening ‘Fabled World’ perfectly exemplifies the current attitude of how fans passively see Anti-Flag. A passionate but cliché riddled track that sounds more like a Sum 41 cover than a political-activistic call out. It sounds expensive, but cheap in quality; it wows but doesn’t sustain anything. I’m not doubting Anti-Flag’s passion – you can hear it, only you can’t feel it; it barely moves you. Melody wise, this band is as tight and efficient as ever. ‘Sky Is Falling’ shows this and also demonstrates their ability to write songs that hit a political nerve hard and fast.
Songs like ‘The Great Divide’ are filled with the similar fury we are used to hearing from them, but time has turned this tiring call to arms to what now sounds like a rendition of Russell Brand’s Revolution – an effort to even acknowledge anymore. But Anti-Flag are in it for the long run and that’s what I like to believe about them: I want to think that they’re still filled with the spearheaded truth, and not just saying the word “corporate” over and over because it’s an easy backhander.
Their first four albums were loved by a whole sub-culture, For Blood and Empire on the other hand was often considered their “sell out” moment that allowed them to make a proper living, and arguably bring out some of their best material. It had the depth and repeatability of a punk album that didn’t sell out its attitude – but it was also a product of its time. Since then they’ve be sailing in the ether of four chord choruses and sing-along anthem beggars. American Spring is another step in this flickering light of a musical career. It’s not ground breaking, but it is a notable effort that shouldn’t go unnoticed.
The first four tracks are pretty much the crux to the whole thing. ‘Brandenburg Gate’ especially, featuring punk legend Tim Armstrong. It is a solid tune that has an anthemic feel that won’t please purists, but probably will make it onto the new Tony Hawks soundtrack. The rest of the album sways from expected “whoas”, to pleasing guitar hooks, to what people like to consider a “mature sound”. It’s very modern, and natural for the band to go in this direction – almost predictable.
Chris Head shreds some tasty solos on the likes of ‘Break Something’ and ‘Low Expectations’, but that’s just one of the three main qualities this album has to show: hooks, clichés, and catchy choruses. I won’t jump on any band wagon against Anti-Flag, about how they’re sellouts – and yes, that ride has long gone and broken down next to the punk-purist scrapyard – but nor will I ignore their inability to ever be the band they once were; they’re relevant, but not producing anything that’s going to become the next ‘Turncoat’ or ‘Press Corpse’.