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Let’s just get this out of the way now: this review is going to get a little bit political. It’s sort of unavoidable. We’re talking about Anti-Flag, and they’re angry.
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The seasoned outfit’s first full studio album in nearly three years, the upcoming 20/20 Vision serves as much as a diatribe against the end of modern society as it does a party counting down to it. Anti-Flag have always known the stakes were high, and this time around they are counting on us knowing that too. The hopeful conviction of the songs brings brightness to such a desolate view of society’s ills, and the focus and clarity of the message is compelling.
The Pittsburgh anarcho-punks waste no time. Less a “first track” than an opening salvo, Hate Conquers All sounds every ounce of a band who have been warning us since 1996. The hyper-aggressive attack of the vocals and the wiry guitars give urgency to the music. The samples of the 45th President of the United States in all his soundbite-worthy shame help clarify the band’s position.
These final tracks work as a satisfying debrief of the music that came before, showing that this album was meant as an opus, rather than just a collection of songs that were ready at the same time.
Tracks like It Went Off Like A Bomb and the cheerfully aggressive Don’t Let The Bastards Get You Down brim with piss and vinegar, and any lyrical nicety is dropped completely on songs like Christian Nationalist and paean to political putrescence The Disease. The ferocious peak of the album comes with the screaming hardcore barrage of A Nation Sleeps followed by the high-energy cynicism of You Make Me Sick.
Un-American marches with martial rhythms and a warm musicality that cleverly utilises Americana slide-guitar and subtle piano flourishes to build a homely resonance while the accessibly earnest lyrics speak of a sense that the future is unsanctified and society is veering off the path; that this is not how it was meant to be.
20/20 Vision comes at a time when the predictions and warnings of their music are arguably playing out in reality, but the rage and indignance come wrapped in a latent kind of hope.
And it is on this vibe that closing track Resistance Frequencies appears, jaunty and with horns akimbo, the upbeat Springsteen-nods contrasting and complementing the picture of struggle that the lyrics paint. These final tracks work as a satisfying debrief of the music that came before, showing that this album was meant as an opus, rather than just a collection of songs that were ready at the same time.
It is hard to nail down the influence of a band who have meant it more and longer than most. Their pedigree in the punk-rock world is as one of the most genuinely seditious bands to ever be signed to a major label, and while their music remains anthemic and catchy in that classic radio-punk way, they have never shied from their message of resistance. Littered with sharp jabs at jingoism and nationalist politics, staying true to the band’s mission statement of a world without borders, 20/20 Vision comes at a time when the predictions and warnings of their music are arguably playing out in reality, but the rage and indignance come wrapped in a latent kind of hope. If this is a band that has to watch society fall, they mean to go down swinging.
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STANDOUT TRACKS: Hate Conquers All, Don’t Let The Bastards Get You Down, Un-American