Lies They Tell Our Children
It might sound a little counter-intuitive but, throughout their career (which has run for thirty-five years now – as of this writing), Anti-Flag has always proven to be at their best when people have already counted the band out – that’s when they have something to prove and that’s when they shine. Most recently, the band shone after they’d finished their two-record contract with RCA and the band released The People or The Gun on SideOneDummy in 2009, and in 2015 when the band jumped to Spinfarm and released American Spring; in that case, a combination of solid and angry songs, a couple of good guest spots [Tom Morello and Tim Armstrong –ed] and a singleminded desire to make a point that they still had something to prove really got the album over. Now, eight years after the last time they did it, Anti-Flag has something to prove again – and they do it well with Lies They Tell Our Children – Anti-Flag’s lucky thirteenth album.
As prepared to be blown away as listeners might be for the new Anti-Flag assault, the band asserts its own control and dominance to remind listeners who’s in control as a lighter and more subdued air opens “Sold Everything.” Fans who recall the band’s early output (which featured anti-commercialism as a staple) will be delighted to discover that, as much as things might have changed about Anti-Flag’s sound and presentation, the band’s heard and mind has clearly remained unchanged as lyrics like, “Fuck all their borders and fuck all their wars/ The violence of Wall Street and profiteer cures/ Neoliberal white saviors, Murdoch and Fox News/ Fuck the Pittsburgh Police and the President too” present an unavoidable plan of attack as well as an unshakable opinion. It lines everything up in a perfectly understandable way for listeners to absorb at a tempo at a tempo which lets them get every word, every chord, every damned micro-tone; it’s not a mission statement exactly, but listeners will know precisely what they’re in for on Lies They Tell Our Children because of it.
After “Sold Everything” sets up the plan, “Modern Medicine” stands up and seethes to follow up in a way that is solid, but still a little unexpected, because it falls a little closer to emo than the brand of political street punk that fans have come to expect, and with a more methodical pacing than most would consider standard standard for the band – but happily things get far more normal when “Laugh, Cry, Smile, Die” turns in some spectacular “message punk” which covers both the message (“Can you hear me, hear me calling/ I’ve got this idea that I’m selling for nothing”) as well as the blistering sonic assault.
From there, the stage is set; Anti-Flag plants a new flag for every song on Lies They Tell Our Children and dares listeners to even miss one. Some of them qualify as the sort that many bands would stake their careers on – “The Fight Of Our Lives” melts faces with the help of Tim McIlrath and Brian Baker (from Rise Against and Bad Religion respectively), “Victory Or Death”comes startlingly close to presenting the best pop-punk song Anti-Flag has ever written (and it’s more pop than punk to boot) and “NVREVR” nails the flawless brand of molten magma-infused punk that Anti-Flag fans always hope for from the band – and the group really leaves listeners wanting more when the album closes on the frothing anger of “Only In My Mind.” There, Justin Sane is actively trying not to spit in listeners’ collective ear as he delivers lines like, “They’re after me/ Where no one’s free/ The house created by their greed/ Is not the goddamn home that we need/ They’re all after me,” and just rests from exhaustion rather than trying to deliver one last grunt. Some readers might assume that such an end would be anti-climactic, but that couldn’t be further from the truth – the way “Only In My Head” ends will leave listeners energized and ready to go all the way through the album again.
Standing back from it, it really is impossible to say enough about Lies They Tell Our Children. From top to bottom, no track runs as weaker than the rest or out of place – it is a phenomenal album which overshadows Anti-Flag’s last two albums, clearly and handily. Some critics might question the fact that there are so many guest players on the album and if that extra assistance was desired or if it was required but, if one forgets about that and just listens, it will be easy to hear how brightly the album shines. [Bill Adams]
Lies They Tell Our Children is out now. Buy it here on Amazon.