”I hate a song that makes you think you are no good. I hate a song that makes you think you are just born to lose.” – Woody Guthrie
Give Anti-Flag credit for never being condescending or coming across as know-it-alls. This is a band made up of four guys who like punk rock, and are willing to scrap the chance at super-stardom in order to express their messages through song. Maybe that is why so many people were upset when they signed to RCA in 2006, but were still able to release an album that maintained their own values and stuck it to the man with an ironic iron fist that was full of sarcastic wit & pent-up angst.
So, after seven full-length studio albums, Anti-Flag rode the major-label wave and wasn’t feeling the surf. Now, they are back where they belong, on a label that has been gaining some serious clout the past year, thanks to in part to their highly-praised roster (including The Gaslight Anthem and Fake Problems). While this should ultimately have the band dancing on clouds and skipping through the woods, Anti-Flag’s brand of joy comes from being exceptionally pissed off and letting you pleasure from it.
First question answered: no, just because President Bush is now gone, that has not lifted the veil from Justin Sane & Chris #2 vocal assault on all the utter shittiness that plagues the world. Even at the band’s most optimistic turns (the Celtic punk influenced, “This is the First Night”), they still question it all. “This is the first night of the rest of our lives / I can’t help but wonder, ‘How is it we’re still alive?'” Starting out with a brash assimilation on the political standing currently choke-holding the nation’s perspective, Sane and #2 switch off on firing lyrical juggernauts into the pit of the political spectrum. “Sodom, Gomorrah, Washington, D.C.” swings at those who use the Bible as a means to get their message across & control the masses, and “The Economy is Suffering… Let it Die” tears every greedy Wall Street embezzler to bits, feasting on those money-hungry politicos like tigers at a Siegfried & Roy show (too soon?). “The Gre(A)t Depression” sounds like a Lawrence Arms leftover, again commenting on the shallow & greedy culture that has led us astray.
What makes The People or the Gun succeed is it’s blatant honesty & rapid-fire pace (11 tracks in 30 minutes), and that it’s a back-to-basics record for this intelligent and well-informed band who took a forgettable turn with The Bright Lights of America, an album that wasn’t as bad as it was just unmemorable. Thankfully, this self-produced record settles the score with a handful of pissed off numbers (“You Are Fired” rips through a major-label tirade in less than 20 seconds) and anthems that reaffirm the injustices we face, but remain hopeful that change lies on the horizon (“When All the Lights Go Out,” a somewhat ironic title in context to their last album).
Despite all the fist-in-the-air anger, this is Anti-Flag’s most focused, cohesive and dedicated effort. “On Independence Day” and “The Old Guard” crush the record out of the yard for a truly organic, emotionally-tense, introspective album that asks you to pick a side, gives you all you need to know and stands its ground. The People or the Gun will inspire you to be involved in more ways than one, and that alone proves music is more than just a catchy tune or a good beat: it’s a message.
Political bands are surely not for everybody, but Anti-Flag is here to say that no matter who you are, we are all in this together, wrong or right. Some of it’s personal, some of it’s broad – yet, no matter how you think, Anti-Flag is ready to back you up and feed you some facts that speak volumes. Are you willing to listen?
NOTE: This album does not see release until June 9th, almost one month from now. Portions of the proceeds from this album’s pre-order sales will go to Amnesty International. Not only do you get a free, non-album track, but the lyrical booklet contains some great quotes, information and it’s also a kick-ass record! Please make sure you pre-order this for a worthy cause, because in this case, everybody wins!