The General Strike
20 March 2012
by Tomas Doyle
In many ways, Anti-Flag are a byword for the sort of one-dimensional politiking which finds its spiritual home on the Warped Tour and whose central tenets appear to be Don’t Bomb Iraq For Oil / Vans Authentics For Everyone. Oft dismissed by those who prefer the more “serious” political stances of the punk underground on the one hand, and the more erudite protestations of NOFX (who have consistently proved themselves to be the best at skate-punk-with-views) on the other, Anti-Flag show no signs of changing their tune on The General Strike – their ninth studio album.
The upshot is that Anti-Flag continue to pump out stoic, high-octane punk rock which flits between “pretty decent” and “rather good”, on a disc clocking in at a pleasingly speedy 27 minutes. Instrumentally, they share a great deal in common with Chicago stalwarts Rise Against, with wirey, quicktime 4:4 riffs filled by the muscularity of both the guitar and drum tones, and given life by some lovely lead guitar melodies. It’s a comparison which does not carry on through to vocals however – whilst Tim McIlrath’s rasping singing style is amongst the finest of his generation of punks, the tediously-named Justin Sane and Chris #2 bring their higher range to the gun show with varying levels of success.
That said, there are some really fine examples of what Anti-Flag are capable of on The General Strike. ‘Broken Bones’ is among the finest songs the band have ever written, and even their attempt at a more “Fest“-ish sound (‘1915’) is a reasonable success, stuffed as it is with the requisite levels of melancholia and grit.
Nevertheless, a sense of forced theatrics shrouds Anti-Flag’s efforts and the lyrical content is often plain bizarre – the “two steps ahead, three goose steps back” line in ‘Nothing Recedes Like Progress’ is one of the more gratuitous invocations of Fascist imagery I can think of in recent times. The pervasive sense is that whilst their feeling of injustice is valid (and it should be noted that the band do a great deal of good work with various organisation from PETA to Greenpeace), it’s sometimes articulated in such a puerile way as to make it lose a deal of its power.
Watch the lyric-video to ‘1915’ by Anti-Flag:
The General Strike is an album unlikely to change your life in any serious way – this is the sound of a band nearing double-figures of studio albums and ploughing the furrow that they always have. The songs are well conceived and reasonably written and whilst they don’t feel especially vital or unique there is little to actively dislike about most of what is going on here. Fans will like it but newcomers will find little to truly inspire them. The General Strike is solid – nothing more, nothing less.
Sounds Like: Rise Against, Smoke or Fire
Standout Tracks: Broken Bones, 1915