The People Or The Gun

Written by: PP on 11/07/2009 15:29:13

"I've seen a lot of bail outs in my life, but why is it that I never see a bail out for the homeless and the poor?" asks Anti-Flag on their ninth album "The People Or The Gun", their first new record since finishing their contract with major label RCA Records. I've chosen to start the review with that brilliant line because it embodies perfectly what the record is about: exquisite and straight-forward political commentary about the financial crisis presented in the traditional Anti-Flag formula, meaning lots of gang-shouted choruses, cyclical guitar melodies, and plenty of woo-hoos for you to sing along to.

The change from RCA to SideOneDummy is audible straight from the first track, "Sodom, Gomorrah, Washington D.C. (Sheep In Shepherds Clothing)", which is the most aggressive Anti-Flag track since 2002's "Mobilize", returning the band back to their hardcore punk roots of their early days. The song is full-on hardcore punk complete with screamed vocals and A-F trademark fast soloing spicing up the song, hence setting the tone of the record to be angry and pissed off, just the way all politically charged punk albums should be. It's followed by the best track on the record "The Economy Is Suffering...Let It Die", which is classic modern Anti-Flag with piercing politically-charged lyricism and a massive chorus, lots of backing gang vocals and instantly catchy circular riffs in between the verses and the choruses. "We're sooooooo fucked" croons Justin Sane at the end of the song, his voice full of desperate anger, rightfully so, but despite the grim theme there's a vibe of optimism and feel-good in the overall tone of the song.

Then we move onto material that could've been on the major label records with "The Gre(A)t Depression", an anthemic stadium-rocker which has more great lyricism : "greed is not going anywhere / they should put that on a billboard in Times Square / it could say 'The Great Depression is over my friends'". Simple? Maybe, but yet so goddamn effective. Similarly, "We Are The One" will surely become a crowd favorite thanks to its many woo-hoo lines and because it just sounds like quintessential Anti-Flag from the piercing guitar melodies and rumbling bass lines to the scratched and angry vocal delivery, but in my ears it's no match to "You Are Fired (Take This Job, Ah, Fuck It)", another pedal-to-the-floor hardcore punk track about the horrid effect of the crises on the proletariat. Although the song is about the economy once again, I can't help but think that the song is also Anti-Flag's shift from a major back to an indie label: "You're fired! Fuck this, fuck that, fuck compromising. Watch it all fall apart [...] Watch the industry just fall apart."

"This Is The First Night" is another solid sing along fest that reminds me of most stuff on their previous two records, again followed by another brilliant hardcore punk track "No War Without Warriors", which is exactly what its lyrics say ("If you're right it feels good to be wrong - Raised fist and a fuck you song."), a great fist-pumping fuck you song full of rebellious punk vibes and aggressive yelling. One of my favorites on the record for sure. "When All The Lights Go Out" (anyone catch the pun on their previous album title?) is otherwise below the standard set by previous tracks, but even here the band's lyricism is absolutely spot on: "We don't need the CEO's - they need us. [...] We are not numbers. We are names. [...] We are not human resources. We are human beings.". Same goes for "On Independence Day", it's just not that good of a track. The chorus isn't as catchy and the coarse wailing starts to get a bit annoying at this point, but since it's towards the end of the record you can pretty much forgive the band for that. Finally, I have no idea why the hidden track at the end of the record wasn't made into a full track considering how infectious it's "wooah wooah wooah woah woohoo" gang vocals are. It's really similar to Pennywise's "Bro Hymn" and would work brilliantly at any of the band's live shows.

Overall you could argue that "The People Or The Gun" is the best Anti-Flag album since 2003's classic "The Terror State". The major label departure seems to have fueled the band's anger which can be heard in the numerous pissed-off tracks on the record, translating into a tighter and more aggressive instrumental performance as well, something that was lacking on the previous two albums. The whole record feels like Anti-Flag have been released from chains after a few years and are now enjoying their artistic freedom to the maximum (which, granted, isn't that much in punk but still).


Download: The Economy Is Suffering...Let It Die, You Are Fired (Take This Job, Ah, Fuck It)
For the fans of: Rise Against, The Unseen, Propagandhi
Listen: Myspace

Release date 09.06.2009

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