Pop and polemics rarely sit comfortably, yet they go hand-in-hand for politically aware Pennsylvanian punks Anti-Flag, whose new album, American Fall, ranks as a strong contender for their angriest yet most accessible record to date.
Released on November 3, 2017, American Fall is the much-anticipated follow-up to the band’s acclaimed Spinefarm debut, 2015’s American Spring. The quartet swapped their snowy native Pittsburgh for sunny Southern California early in 2017, and it was there that they recorded American Fall with co-producer Benji Madden, shortly after Donald Trump was elected as the new President Of The United States Of America.
“The result of the election did and didn’t affect the lyrical content of the record,” Anti-Flag frontman Justin Sane replies when uDiscover Music inquires if the new political landscape altered the way American Fall turned out.
“Some of the songs – for example “Digital Blackout,” which is about PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] experienced by drone pilots – were written before the election. But there was plenty of injustice before then too, and I think that’s why punk still matters – it’s all about confronting big issues that affect us all, and it’s about giving a f__k about leaving things better than you found them when you started out.”
The thinking man’s punks, Anti-Flag are renowned for their positivity. They champion political and ecological action groups such as Greenpeace and Amnesty International, and while their loyal fanbase expects his band to confront the big issues, Justin selects five choice reasons why Anti-Flag is still proudly waving the banner for punk.
1: Punk stands against racism and other similar “-isms”
Justin: Confronting racism, homophobia, bigotry, and other “-isms”, such as sexism, are all things punk rock should stand for. For example, “Racists,” from the new album, spells it out that it’s not OK to be racist.
Before Donald Trump was elected, I didn’t think I’d need to write a song like that in 2017, but then Charlottesville happened [when white supremacists clashed violently with anti-racist counter-demonstrators in Virginia, in August 2017] and that showed how much the far-right neo-Nazi groups in the U.S. had become emboldened. We made a lyric video for it because it was too relevant a statement not to make it now.
2: Punk plays a role in demolishing the ‘politics of distraction’
Justin: “American Attraction,” the first song on American Fall, is about “the politics of distraction.” The idea is that whenever our President puts out insane tweets and says or does something outrageous, that’s where everyone’s focus goes. We need to understand that, quite often, these things are intended to distract people from other important issues going on beneath the surface. The current White House might look like a train wreck on the surface, but don’t be fooled: the oil, gas, coal, and arms manufacturers are doing just fine.
3: Punk can be catchy, accessible music
Justin: Some of the songs on American Fall concern pretty heavy issues, so we made a conscious decision that we wanted to deliver these messages in a way where people can digest them without getting burnt out on it. Anti-Flag plays my favorite brand of punk rock because it reflects the kind of music I like to listen to myself.
4: Punk’s first-wave heroes can still inspire 21st-century artists
Justin: I’m in no way comparing Anti-Flag with The Clash, but we love their London Calling album and we dig the way they boldly experimented with news styles on that record. That inspired us to try and make a record that meant trying something new, but also taking inspiration from the bands that first made us wanna make music. Not just The Clash, either. They’re both Anti-Flag songs first and foremost, but “When The Wall Falls’ has elements of Rancid’s ska-punk, and there’s a little Social Distortion in “American Attraction.”
5: Punk still welcomes the disenfranchised
Justin: When I was starting out, I was attracted to punk because it was a community of people where I felt I was included, even though, prior to that, I felt I didn’t belong anywhere. If you’re that misfit kid, then our door is always open for you. It’s that inclusivity – the place where the misfits can go and be celebrated for who they are. That’s the very essence of punk.
Anti-Flag’s no-holds-barred album, American Fall, can be purchased here.