ALBUM REVIEW: Anti-Flag – 20/20 Vision (Spinefarm Records)

Political punk icons Anti-Flag are back with their 12th studio album, and I’m pleased to report it’s business as usual for the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, crew.

The band have been at the forefront of socially-conscious punk rock for nearly 20 years, and are known for their politically-charged lyrics and activism.

They’ve long been at pains to explain that Anti-Flag does not mean anti-American. It means anti-war, and a belief that the common people of the world are better off living in unity and peace.

20/20 Vision is Anti-Flag’s 12th studio album.

After the one-two of American Spring and American Fall, this is their third record for Finnish metal and punk label Spinefarm, and it’s their usual mix of anarcho punk and hardcore, with a mainstream sheen.

The latter is a probably a result of their late-00s two-album contract with major label RCA, which had old fans screaming ‘sell-out’. The band justified it by saying they wanted their message to reach as many people as possible.

The band still features founding singer-guitarist Justin Sane and drummer Pat Thetic, and after lots of changes in the early years, the line-up has settled with the addition of guitarist Chris Head and singer/bassist Chris Barker, who have both been on board since the late 90s.

Ant-Flag performing at Rebellion Festival in Blackpool. Pic: Gary Welford.

With 20/20 Vision they show they have plenty of anger left, and it’s little surprise much of it is aimed at the government of Donald Trump, with a soundclip of the POTUS himself acting as the intro for impassioned opener Hate Conquers All.

It Went Off Like A Bomb and the title track are typical Anti-Flag songs, with big guitar hooks, a rhythm section packing plenty of punch and lyrics carrying important messages about the divided times in which we live.

The first great song on the album comes in the shape of fourth track Christian Nationalist with its strident chorus of “You’re not better than the rest/White neo-Christian Nationalist/Religious law your litmus test/White neo-fascist supremacist” and the repeated coda of “we all know who you are.” Great stuff.

Anti-Flag frontman Justin Sane at Rebellion Festival in Blackpool. Pic: Gary Welford.

Don’t Let The Bastards Get You Down is another call to arms, and the deeper you get into the album the angrier Anti-Flag sound. Take You Make Me Sick, where they rage: “When I think about you, you make me sick/You’re a maniac, a liar, a piece of shit/A cynical condescending hypocrite/Everything you do, you make me, you make me sick!” Who could they be talking about?

There’s a change of pace with the largely acoustic Un-American, but its message is no less powerful, and the album is rounded off in more typical style with closer Resistance Frequencies, though I’d rather they left the horns to Less Than Jake.

Although there’s nothing as outstanding as their classics Die For The Government or Turncoat on here, there’s not a bad song either. Another good album 8/10.

Anti-Flag are bringing their 20/20 Vision tour to the UK in February. Pic: Gary Welford.

Anti-Flag are promoting 20/20 Vision with a lengthy UK and European tour, followed by a full US tour in the spring. You can see them on the following UK dates, supported by The Creepshow and Maid Of Ace.

Feb 2 Brighton – Chalk
Feb 4 London – O2 Academy Islington
Feb 5 Manchester – Club Academy
Feb 6 Birmingham – The Mill
Feb 7 Glasgow – The Garage
Feb 8 Leeds – The Key Club
Feb 9 Cardiff – The Globe

Gary Welford owner