TITLE: AMERICAN RECKONING
LABEL: SPINEFARM RECORDS
RATING: 7 /10
WORDS: KEVIN FLINN
With the political climate growing ever more divisive not only in the U.S., but all around the world, music seems to be the only salvation. Especially, from bands who refuse to shy away from the trials and the tribulations that plague the daily issues of the world. Anti-Flag, are one of those bands. Releasing their new acoustic album, ‘American Reckoning’, Anti-Flag has created a reimagining of seven of their songs from their last two album releases, ‘American Spring’ (2015) and ‘American Fall’ (2017), and with a satisfying bonus, three cover tracks, recorded with the full group, that have inspired the band throughout the years.
Anti-Flag made noise with the original release of ‘American Fall’, featuring a depiction of the Oval Office with money stacked in the shape of a skull; a jab at the current U.S. Presidency. With ‘American Reckoning’, they aim to shine a new light on some of the more politically motivated tracks that, like the continuous onslaught of breaking news, may have been overlooked after the initial release. Four songs make an appearance from ‘American Fall’, including the unashamed track ‘Racists’, which balances the heavy lyrical content with a light hearted sound, amplified by the innocent sounding lead riff. You’ll be bobbing your head along to the acoustic bass groove and simplistic guitar rhythm only to be hit with lyrics “Black lives matter and you don’t know why, and reverse racism isn’t a real thing”.
“SHINES A LIGHT ON SOME OF THE MORE POLITICALLY MOTIVATED TRACKS…”
There are a few songs where lead singer Justin Sane has a Tim Armstrong (Rancid) like quality to his voice, most likely attributed to the more raw nature of this album. Without having to battle against pounding drums and distorted guitars, Sane’s voice comes through fully in each song, a great advantage for those who really want the lyrical messages to take center stage. And speaking of Tim Armstrong, the song ‘Brandenburg Gate’, from ‘American Spring’ which featured Armstrong originally, makes a welcomed appearance. Starting with a more stripped down sound, appearing as if it came straight from a phone recording, the song journeys through the first few verses and chorus, before the fully mixed instruments come in, a solid but potentially overlooked mixing technique used to add some variety to a mostly straightforward record.
As mentioned previously, there are three cover tracks on the back half of ‘American Reckoning’; ‘Gimme Some Truth’ by John Lennon, ‘For What It’s Worth’ by Buffalo Springfield, and ‘Surrender’ by Cheap Trick. Each song is recorded with the full band in tow, adding their signature no frills punk style to otherwise fairly standard rebellion tunes. The highlight of the three arguably is ‘Surrender’, only because of its recognition and popularity even to today’s standards. And they add their own little twist on the lyrics as well, with the opening line going “Mother told me, yes, she told me I’d meet girls like you”, with girls being replaced with a very prominent pronunciation of boys, just to add a little bit of their no-f’s-given attitude.
“…SHOWCASES WHY THEY’VE BEEN A STAPLE IN THE POLITICAL PUNK GENRE FOR THE LAST FEW DECADES ….”
‘American Reckoning’ acts as a solid addition to the American series of albums that have been released over the last 3 years. Spinefarm Records has given Anti-Flag the means to truly showcase why they’ve been a staple in the political punk genre for the last few decades. With creating an acoustic album, there’s a level of allure immediately, especially with a punk band as prominent as these guys. Some may be intrigued to see how Anti-Flag songs fare as more stripped down versions of themselves, while others may enjoy the new takes on these songs. For die hard and general fans, this album will appeal because more Anti-Flag is always good, even if it’s content heard before. For others who may be looking to vent their frustrations of the world and may not be into loud guitars and in your face vocals, this album acts as a great intro to what Anti-Flag has always been about, being a voice for those without one.