Some of the best protest songs have come from artists carrying an acoustic guitar and leading the disaffected masses into battle. Political Pittsburgh punks Anti-Flag have decided to pay tribute to the troubadours of the past by releasing an album of acoustic renditions of tracks from their last two albums, completing their American trilogy with ‘American Reckoning’.
In troubled times such as these, protest songs practically write themselves, and while ‘American Spring’ and ‘American Fall’ might not be the most subtle in terms of their lyrical execution, some of the angriest cuts from those albums have been given the acoustic treatment for this record with varied results.
While the translation from fast-paced punk rock anthem to campfire sing-along works for tracks such as ‘American Attraction’, which actually becomes more venomous stripped down and laid bare. Sadly, this isn’t the case for every song on this record. The painfully relevant Racists’ just sounds clumsy and clunky when slowed down and played acoustically.
The highlight of the release is without a doubt ‘Brandenburg Gate’, which has an Elvis Costello-like quality when played acoustically that makes it sound like it should’ve always been played like this. Even without the guest appearance from Rancid‘s Tim Armstrong who’s present on the original, it doesn’t sound lacking.
A few classic protest songs have found themselves given the Anti-Flag treatment and made their way onto this album too. Buffalo Springfield‘s ‘For What It’s Worth’ is just as relevant now as the original was fifty years ago, showing that it isn’t time to give up yet. Despite being an excellent choice of cover, it felt like Anti-Flag played it a little safe and could’ve changed things up a little bit.
‘American Reckoning’ is a fist pumping and fun album to listen to, but let’s hope it isn’t the first sign of a band losing the fire that made them great in the first place.