Anti-Flag delivers strong politics


For Blood and Empire


2006, RCA

I remember when Joe Strummer, the late punk rock icon and member of The Clash, participated in the Boston Marathon. Speaking of the grueling training required for it, he explained nonchalantly to one reporter: “I like the insanity of getting up early in the morning to train.”

Straight edge punk rock band Anti-Flag has been engaged in the similar feat of pounding the pavement and calling on others to do likewise for 11 years. Their recently released “For Blood and Empire” gives fans and newcomers alike plenty of reason to do so.

“The Press Corpse” rails against the print media’s complicity in refusal to “talk, talk, talk about” the role the Downing Street Memo played in making “the facts fit the false charges” to initiate war with Iraq, preferring instead to “tip-toe walk around it” as it attempts to foment support for the war: “They talk it up all day/They talk it up all night? Talk until their face turns blue.”

“Émigre” draws its inspiration heavily from Pastor Martin Niemoller’s statement about the role passivity among the German intelligentsia played in the rise of Nazism in that country. Justin Sane sings: “First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out, then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out … and, then they came for meeeeeee!!!!!” Niemoller’s testimony is used here to draw parallels of silent complicity by the international community through inaction today. Connections are made between tortured prisoners at Guantanamo and Darfur refugees, chiding the United States for failing to live up to its values that would actively counter genocide and torture.

But, as with all the songs of this CD, a spirit of unmistakable resilience and outrage is expressed in the vocals that chant, “Fight forever more! …This is the second time!/We will not fall in line!”

What’s most impressive (and even a bit disconcerting) is the sustained passion throughout this CD’s 13 songs. The band hasn’t missed a beat or slowed down since recording their previous and equally scathing CD, “The Terror State,” in 2003. It’s pretty much what Anti-Flag has been delivering during the past 11 years: gut-wrenching political angst, searing and crunching guitar chords, hoarse vocals, merciless drumming and highly kinetic bass runs. And, there’s not one moment that sounds contrived.

The accompanying 22-page pamphlet presents in-depth and painstakingly detailed information related to the songs’ political content. It even tells AF fans how they can tell their members of Congress to sign onto the Depleted Uranium Munitions Study Act. My only complaint is that the print is at times hard to read against the background graphics.

In short, this CD is as educational as it is a work of art. It’s also an incredibly insane show of stamina.