American Spring

Written by: PP on 16/06/2015 21:19:12

Never ones to keep their mouths shut with regards to political and social activism, Anti-Flag may have released their most provocative album as of yet. With a title like "American Spring", they are suggesting a close link between the Arab Spring revolutions that spanned North Africa and Middle East, and the rising social instability in the US that's largely attributable to the explosive rise in income equality between different social classes in the country. With a lyrical cocktail as explosive as that, expectations were sky high for another "The Terror State" equivalent masterpiece from the punk rock veterans on their 9th album to date, especially because 2012's "The General Strike" was a somewhat disappointing follow-up to "The People Or The Gun" from 2009.

The lyrical content being highly politically charged should come as a surprise to no-one, however, stylistically the band have taken their biggest risk since 2006's major-label debut "For Blood And Empire". If you recall, that was the album where the band started experimenting with slower and more radio-friendly material like "1 Trillion Dollar$" and "The Press Corpse", and generally tilted more towards mainstream rock than ever before (or since) during their career spanning two decades. Parallels to that album are everywhere on "American Spring", but most of all, this is the biggest sounding Anti-Flag album to date, thanks to massive production that's fairly typical for Spinefarm Records bands in general. A song like "Brandenburg Gate" (featuring Rancid's Tim Armstrong) is a great example, because it embeds the fighting, fist-pump friendly spirit of Anti-Flag's anthemic political punk past within a grandeur soundscape that echoes and expands in all directions. The aggressive rebellion of "Song For Your Enemy" is equally huge in its thunderous delivery, and it's fair to say the band's call-to-arms songs have never before sounded this convincing in terms of fitting on large, festival-sized stages than here.

"Set Yourself On Fire" is another highlight with it's infectiously catchy "Set yourself on fire... now you're burnin' down, burnin' down" chorus, again showcasing the crispy production values applied across records. Usually, this type of artificial inflation of sound is grounds for heavy criticism for the undersigned, but throughout "American Spring" the band have found a balance between sounding big and sounding raw. There's never a feeling of too much polish on the record, which is what saves it from disaster and allows the songs still to flourish as punk rock anthems as they were designed to be. As such, it's not directly comparable to the sound presented on "For Blood And Empire", because that album was most of all polished, whereas Spinefarm executives have understood that Anti-Flag is first and foremost about punk rock rebellion, without which their soundscape would fail to generate as much hype and interest as it does two decades later.

That being said, "American Spring" isn't their best material overall. Despite the high-flying choruses and anthemic material overall, the album feels inconsistent. Amidst the songs named in this review exists more lackluster material that's best described as Anti-Flag on autopilot. "Without End" (featuring Tom Morello on guitar) is a good example, and earlier on "Walk Away" is another one that basically makes them sound like a derivative of themselves above all else. Still, Anti-Flag have always been a fairly consistent band overall, and as such, "American Spring" is still an essential purchase for punk rock fans at large, even if it doesn't touch their best material.

Download: Brandenburg Gate, Set Yourself On Fire, Sky Is Falling, Song For Your Enemy
For the fans of: The Unseen, Smoke Or Fire, The Casualties, Rise Against
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Release date 25.05.2015
Spinefarm Records

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