The world can be a scary place. Wars have been going on since the beginning of time, and with the speed of the internet bringing information to our fingertips in seconds, it has become nearly impossible to block out all of the negativity in our lives. As a parent of three beautiful children, I have tried my best to shelter them from anything that could cause them any type of harm. With politicians in some states complicating matters by trying to re-write, or re-frame historical events in the way they see fit, it seems like a sense of urgency has been created to keep these people in check. Anti-Flag have returned at the perfect time with their 13th studio album, with the aptly titled Lies They Tell Our Children. The music that comes through the speakers sounds as passionate as these punk rockers have ever been, and seven out of the eleven songs found on the LP feature an outside collaborator. These contributions by their friends in other bands never seem out of place, and instead bring more voices into the “fight of our lives.”
As much as I appreciate the constant energy that Anti-Flag have brought forth on the opening songs of many of their records, taking a more somber approach on “Sold Everything” sets the stage perfectly for the material that follows. The opening lines of, “Well, they sold all our bodies, collected our names / Sold all our fears, stole all our birthdates / Every thought we have exchanged for windfall / If they gave you nothing, you’d have nothing at all,” are armed with profound purpose and showcase a group of individuals willing to push the boundaries to disrupt the status quo. “Modern Meta Medicine” hits next with a great guest spot from Jesse Leach and the pre-chorus of “Every dime spared from the war fund / Another pill for us to choke on,” is whispered into the eardrums of every willing listener able to join in the fight.
My personal favorite comes from the single “Laugh.Cry.Smile.Die.” that showcases a band continuing to take calculated risks in order to bring forth their powerful message. It features a well-built bridge with vocals from Shane Told as he laments, “In the fluorescents of boardrooms / The proof disappears / In the darkness of the night / They prey on our fears,” before the rest of Anti-Flag echoes the voices shouting “Now they’re capping all the the questions, no accountability / The only answers given are the ones that keep them free / They knew it, they sold it then wrote it into law / To greenwash, to market, the cleanest death of all.” It’s a incredible feeling when punk rock is done this well, and is so laser-focused in its approach for the message it wants to get across.
Things continue to explode in the right direction with “The Fight Of Our Lives,” featuring Tim McIlrath and Brian Baker. This frenetic energy is contagious as Anti-Flag bounce along with precision. The lyrics of “There’s an echo ringing that we’re going to war / It’s the same old story, they’re still killing for sport,” are as haunting as they are true, and pack a mighty punch to them. The drumbeat on “Imperialism” by Pat Thetic provides the perfect canvas for the rest of the band in Anti-Flag to paint their vivid landscape. The vocal barbs from Ashrita Kumar are focused and pointed as she brags, ” Did things my own way, made up my own rules / Took off a Sunday and stole all of your jewels / Moved into your house, you said can you move.”
Things take a break from the punishing punk rock delivery with the anthemic “Victory or Death (We Gave ‘Em Hell),” that reminds me of the latest Cold Years record, plus a sprinkling of Green Day’s American Idiot. Songs like this reward longtime fans of Anti-Flag for sticking around for 30+ years, and highlight a band maturing gracefully in the latter stages of their collective careers. “The Hazardous” brings back the frenetic energy of the front half of the record, and takes aim at the on-going wars pulling lives apart. The chorus of, “Locked out, locked up / They’ve got their gun to our heads / Same war, same chains / Same house always wins / The bottom line defines the hazardous redline / They’ve got their gun to our heads,” is particularly powerful, and it reminds the world of just how dangerous it can be to comply with policies we don’t believe in.
The back half never loses its momentum with songs like “Shallow Graves,” “Work & Struggle” and the single “NVREVR,” featuring Stacey Dee. On the latter, Anti-Flag package their full arsenal of punk rock spirit and energy into a crowd-pleasing sing-a-long moment demanding a packed club to participate in. By the time you’ve reached the dramatic conclusion of “Only In My Head,” you’re probably wondering how a band who’s been at it this long could age so gracefully and still keep their focus on bringing about real change. Their mission has always been to push the boundaries of their music and make their lyrics resonate in their followers long after the music fades away. Lies They Tell Our Children has done just that, and starts off a loaded 2023 with musical brilliance.