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Anti-Flag - 'American Reckoning' Album Review


1. The Debate Is Over (If You Want It)

2. Trouble Follows Me (Acoustic)

3. American Attraction (Acoustic)

4. When the Wall Falls (Acoustic)

5. Racists (Acoustic)

6. Set Yourself On Fire (Acoustic)

7. Brandenburg Gate (Acoustic)

8. Gimme Some Truth

9. For What It’s Worth

10. Surrender

Anti-Flag has been a favorite of mine for a long time. I remember hearing the title track to ‘Die For The Government’ back in the mid 90’s and have been a fan since that first listen. With a career spanning over two decades, I have not loved all of their albums, but they have done something over the past few years that not many bands can do. The past two albums (‘American Spring’ and ‘American Fall’) are possibly my favorite albums in their catalog. This new album includes some acoustic versions of songs from those albums plus some covers of songs that helped inspire the albums. While this may seem like a bit of a stop-gap album, it is highly enjoyable, especially because of how well Anti-Flag does their material acoustically.

‘The Debate Is Over’ sets the table perfectly with the combination of vocals by Justin and Chris #2 being part of the Anti-Flag magic. This acoustic rocker still contains some venom. ‘Trouble Follows Me’ has never been one of my favorites from ‘American Fall,’ mainly due to the quality of the surrounding material. It always felt a little bit like the runt of the litter to my ears and falls into a similar category here. It is extremely well done, but it pales compared to what comes next. ‘American Attraction’ showed a very different musical side to Anti-Flag as it was a little more Hard Rock and saw the band incorporating some different sounds. This acoustic version is simply awesome. It has a Punk spirit at its core, and the chorus really should have helped propel Anti-Flag a little closer to the mainstream.

On ‘American Fall,’ the band made it a very diverse album with ‘When The Wall Falls’ adding a bit of Rancid style Ska to the collection. The simple straight forward acoustic style works well here, giving it a hint of a Frank Turner type vibe. ‘Racists’ was more along the lines of a typical Anti-Flag song here, and it works well here with the call and response vocals being very prominent. Part of the charm on this record is it sounds like the band is playing live in the room for you. ‘Set Yourself On Fire’ has been one that I have been curious to hear since this album was first announced. The crisp clean guitar picking stands out, and the vocal work is killer. This has become my early favorite from the album.

‘Brandenburg Gate’ feels a bit like a ballad in this setting with a slow build up, and I can see cell phones raised in the air as the crowd sings the final chorus. ‘Gimme Some Truth’ finds the band breaking out some electric guitars to create a special moment on this cover. This will likely become a mainstay on my Anti-Flag playlists. ‘For What It’s Worth’ is alright, but it has still not truly connected with me after many listens. I had thought it might resonate stronger here in this setting, after seeing the video many times on YouTube. Check in with me in about three months to see if it has clicked by then. The performance is solid by the band. Wrapping up this collection is something I never would have expected, Anti-Flag covering a well known Cheap Trick song. ‘Surrender’ has been a staple for Cheap Trick since it was released, even if it came with some controversy in the lyrics, but that is a story for another time. This is a pretty straight forward cover, but the band offer some subtle differences. I have to say I am loving this version of the song.

Anti-Flag have created an album that provides plenty of replay value as we wait for the next album and tour. It’s not a perfect album, and this is fine with me as I look to these types of albums to have a bit of fun and see a band take some risks. If you have not had their two most recent albums in your rotation recently, this might find all three records getting plays. I cannot see too many new fans coming to the band necessarily, but I might be wrong if the likes of ‘American Attraction’ gets exposed to a different audience.

‘American Reckoning’ is available September 28th.

Review - Gerald Stansbury

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