With their twelfth album, Anti-Flag are back with ’20/20 Vision’. The artwork features the band’s logo plastered over a blurred-looking Donald Trump, and if you know anything about Anti-Flag, this will come as no surprise.
The last few years across the world have given bands such as Anti-Flag a great deal to work with thematically, though on a musical level you shouldn’t really expect many risks or left-turns.
Opening with a sample of the infamous Trump speech about wanting to shut down protesters just like in the “good old days”, this should let you know what you’re in for. But songs like ‘It Went Off Like A Bomb’Rise Against have covered similar musical ground and lyrical themes over the years, but to a much better degree.
They don’t help themselves with the lyrics, either. The trite ‘Christian Nationalist’ rhymes “the likes of you” with “the likes of you”, and the chorus feels like they opened a thesaurus to find out what rhymes with ‘nationalist’. Lyrics like “You have a sickness and we are the disease” also fall flat… yeah, take that, evil Republican overlords. You’re clearly going to die in your thousands from Anti-Flag-itis.
‘A Nation Sleeps’ is a little faster, with a double-time beat guiding the way. Bookended by a violin, this song is admittedly one of the better cuts.
But, with Justin Sane putting on one of the most cringe-worthy, forced-sounding sneers ever committed to tape for the intro of ‘You Make Me Sick’, you have to wonder who approved this. This song is a textbook example of a disparity between the intentions and the end product.
‘Un-American’ does goes into cheesy country-ballad territory, but this is much more lyrically ambiguous and insightful. The storytelling narrative of this song and its display of more subtle musical aspects definitely improves things.
When ‘Resistance Frequencies’ begins with feedback, it’s clearly meant to invoke some danger, but we’re bought down to earth with trumpets. No, thanks. It continues as functional as ever, and you’re pleased that they’re trying not to waste time, but you’re still checking how much longer this is going to last.
It’s a good thing that Anti-Flag have used their platform over the years to fight injustices, and if you were to judge this record purely on its intentions, it’d be far more glowing. Politicised punk rock should simply sound far more exciting than this on a musical level, though. If ’20/20 Vision’ is the soundtrack to the resistance, we may as well hold up a white flag.