Review Summary: Another politically charged punk album with nothing to distinguish it from similar works.
What do you get when you cross snot-nosed rebellion with an unfounded sense of political standing? The answer is usually a teenage punk rock band, although there is your occasional group that never seems to grow up. Anti-Flag fits into the latter category, with fairly basic riffs and rehashed political themes all the while retaining that ***-you attitude that is oh so important to the genre. Anti-Flag have always fought against “the system”, taking every opportunity to protest the government or whatever president happens to be in office. The problem is, they kind of sold out over the course of their last two albums, as For Blood and Empire
and The Bright Lights of America
saw the band sign to a major label while their music became all too accessible and radio friendly. While they weren’t terrible, there is something oddly irritating about hearing strings and a children’s choir on any Anti-Flag album. With The People Or The Gun
, it was clear that the band sought to rectify that issue and reclaim what once made them respected by some listeners.
The band’s effort to reassert their identity gets off to a very strong start with the opener, “Sodom, Gomorrah, Washington D.C. (Sheep in Shepherd’s Clothing).” The pace is furious, and so are the screeching (but very determined sounding) vocals. In fact, the pinnacle of the song just might be at the very end, when Chris #2 yells, Religion…is the opiate…of the weak!
. The album proceeds with “The Economy is Suffering…Let it Die” and “The Gre(a)t Depression”, both of which keep the album afloat on what is actually a very impressive start. Anti-Flag succeeds to this point on the album because they stick to their bread and butter: catchy bass, frantic guitar riffs, and angry/senseless drumming. Unfortunately, they don’t keep it up for long.
“We Are the One” gets old after the first chorus and the obnoxious sounding whoa oh!’s
in the bridge don’t help anything (do they ever)? Tracks like “This Is the First Night”, “On Independence Day”, and “The Old Guard” all fall back into the poppy-sounding Bright Lights of America
trap that Anti-Flag sought to avoid altogether on The People Or The Gun
. Filled with more whoa oh oh
’s and slow boring chords, the latter half of the album falls flat on its face. It is really a shame, because the first several songs on the album showed promise that Anti-Flag could still release a consistent and thoroughly enjoyable punk album. Instead, The People Or The Gun
becomes a mess of different styles that should have been b-sides on either of their last two releases. With that said, there are still some diamonds in the rough. The two 1-minute tracks, “You are Fired” and “Untitled”, actually inject a lot of energy and youth into the album when it needs it the most. Also, “No War Without Warriors” is an even angrier, more chaotic version of the opening track. In a way, hearing this song can be frustrating, because had Anti-Flag kept up that intensity for the entire album, I would be sitting here reviewing their best album instead of just another average one.
When all is said and done, The People Or The Gun
is a tease. It shows a glimmer of hope in the fast, frantic punk-rock that earned Anti-Flag fame to begin with. However, it simply drops the ball for the majority of the latter half, showing little interest in recapturing the energetic tone set in the beginning. Unfortunately, that makes this just another politically charged punk album with nothing to distinguish it from similar works. Anti-Flag may have started to redeem their name, but The People Or The Gun
is, for all intents and purposes, average.