REVIEW: Anti-Flag – The General Strike

Anti-Flag

Artist: Anti-Flag
Album: The General Strike
Genre: Punk
Label: SideOneDummy

Anti-Flag have, as we all know, forged a considerable reputation on their acerbic left-wing views and activism. This outlook has always formed an integral part of their music, which hearkens back to the golden years of punk in its fiercely anti-establishment lyrics and raw, furious sound. The General Strike is album number eight, and comes embellished with the standard firebrand of punk and dissatisfaction. There’s no real new ground here and no sweeping innovations in their music, but what they do they do well and these twelve songs provide further baiting for the masses.

The album opens with a twenty-one second long intro entitled “Controlled Opposition,” a nice rousing introduction to everything you knew you could expect anyway. “The Neoliberal Anthem” is the opening to the album proper. There’s a certain air of solemnity to this song, as it fosters an air of unity and sings of creating a ‘worldwide anthem.’ It is somewhat more grounded and austere than their music tends to be, particularly because the vocals seem restrained and less adamant than usual. It is very anthemic however, with thought-provoking and critical lyrics and a grim, infectious breakdown towards the end that lends the song added impact. There was some speculation on the part of fans that the album’s title, which was originally cited as ‘Magnum,’ may have been altered to acknowledge the Occupy movements around the world. Indeed, the band played an acoustic set at the New York site in October of last year and their music feels like a natural accompaniment to these mass protests. In this regard, “The Neoliberal Anthem” is a fine, arresting piece, one that challenges and engages without getting too forceful for its own good.

“1915” opens with a strangely perky riff, one that’s then swiftly engulfed by darker musical swells. The sense of grim sobriety that informed the prior track is also evident here, as that same opening riff struggles for recognition in a grinding, discordant chorus. “This is the New Sound” restores a sense of momentum with a raucous group holler. The words address the stifling nature of routine and act as a call to arms in the chorus, with an encouragingly brash guitar solo as added incentive. This song is more intimate than you’d expect, perhaps due to its individual tone, and quietly urges reaction. “Bullshit Opportunities” is the first flash of real, incendiary anger on the album. The instruments are fervent and uncompromising, the music embodying the virulence of their rebellious themes and making an impassioned call for change. “The Ranks of the Masses Rising” makes for a similarly resounding listen, with insurgent and vociferous harmonies and solos powering the song along.

“Turn a Blind Eye” is short and damning. “Broken Bones” revisits the sombre notes of the earlier tracks, an earthy group chant leading into a similarly deadpan solo. It’s more focused and dismissive and in many ways reminiscent of Rise Against, whose music addresses similar issues. The chorus is rugged and disillusioned and there’s an insidious, more lingering overall than on many of their bolder and more upfront anthems.

“I Don’t Wanna” is impassioned, exasperated, and feisty. The music is harsher and more stirring than anywhere else, with a mischievous reference to PS4s and the like in between all the heady political and moral debate. It’s relentless and electric throughout, showcasing all their strengths in one brief track. “Nothing Recedes like Progress” is a standard, embittered rant – typically stormy but a safe ending. It signs off as potently and solemnly as the album opened, dismissing the likelihood of progress as much as it demands change.

Some may wonder as to how Anti-Flag continue to stake their career almost entirely on the same themes, but with economic stagnation and civilian unrest a global reality at the moment, The General Strike illustrates how eternally relevant these issues are. The band’s vocal opposition to war, class struggles, and stifling Machiavellian politics has never been more prescient than it is now and given the current state of affairs, it’s likely this album will touch a chord with more people than ever. As it is, it’s as accomplished and striking as one would expect a band on their eighth album to sound, and anyone who takes offence ought to know better by now.

SCORE: 8/10
Review written by Grace Duffy

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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