Review Summary: Get your dancing shoes on, we're going to party!
At this point I must sound like a broken record, I mean, given how this year – and the last couple of years – has gone for the majority of punk’s main event albums, it’s hard for me not to sound like I’m repeating myself. But the day when one of these seminal bands releases a solid punk album again is the day I’ll break from my cynical, sulking mood of sitting in a darkened room and pondering over how stagnant and flaccid a lot of the genre has gotten, and where it all went wrong for this demographic of band. As is the repeating trend with our veterans in the genre today, Anti-Flag succumb to a lot of the same banal tricks their compadres mercilessly fall victim to; the most telling of problems comes from an abundance of complacency. Like a ferocious beast that once delivered fear across the land, only to become domesticated, fat and without its claws, this appears to be the best analogy I can conjure up which best describes what has happened to Anti-Flag, and indeed, a lot of their age category.
Of course, there are varying degrees of this lazy writing at the minute, and to Anti-Flag’s credit, they have a little more to offer than most. But then again, it doesn’t say much as Anti-Flag’s output has been stuck in a rut for quite some time, the positive to come from this, however, is that American Fall
seems to maintain its level of quality; being that it’s all run-of-the-mill, autopilot pop-punk rock. I can’t fault the band for trying to get a message out into the open: their awareness on America’s worrying problems at the minute has a little more believability than the tripe Prophets of Rage or Rancid were trying to project this year; the problem is the topics are so vague and generic it’s hard to really sink into them. There’s no real way of listening to them and having you feel like you’re living in 2017’s troubled times: the plea to get people to wake up and fight for their freedom and rights; the terrible corruption and greed eating away at the country’s system; or the endless racist battles, famine and disregard for human life are problems which have been on-going for a long, long time. You could literally stick these topics into any decade and they’d be relevant for the time, and that’s because these problems have always endured. Which ultimately makes these themes basically overused tropes for the genre. The subject matter pertained here feels like its beating around the bush rather than bulldozing through it, and makes for another box to tick in the “How to be Punk” rulebook.
The music isn’t much better: in the same vein as every other bouncy, catchy, fluffy pop-punk band doing the rounds today, this, for me, is where the band shot themselves several albums ago – effectively stripping them of what made the band so engaging on the likes of For Blood and Empire
. American Fall
weaves in and out of the old-skool ska bounce, generic, hooky riffs, the occasional face-melting tempo and high-octane energy, which you’ll find on “Liar”, and an oversaturation on the – frankly, single biggest problem in the scene today – fan chants and “Ohhwahhoo” shouts that get sprayed all over their songs. As always, the bass has been an unyielding positive for this band’s sound, even in their turbulent years, so it’s a good job that it’s well in the mix and pounding out all manner of infectious grooves while Chris Barker “walks the dog”. Everything else instrumentally adequately functions, with the odd moment for a decent solo, but there isn’t anything particularly stand out worth mentioning here either.
As far as punk albums go at the minute, this is one of the better ones. The problem isn’t that it’s a bad album, but that it’s a drab and by the numbers one. It’s like the members of Anti-Flag did this record while they were sleepwalking; or had another flick through the rulebook whilst watching pop-punk bands on Youtube with the highest views. Sure, a lot of the songs on here are infectious and catchy – and if you’re looking for music to bang on in the background for a party then look no further, because that’s exactly what this album feels like it was designed for. It’s a nice, safe pop-punk record that does what it’s supposed to, and to me, that’s half of the problem. For a punk band that was once trying to change the system, they’re now doing a stellar job of playing it by the rules.
SPECIAL EDITION: N/A