Having recently made a brief return to the UK as part of their 20th anniversary celebrations, Anti-Flag have produced their fair share of influential political punk rock over the years, covering topics ranging from anti-war activism to class struggle to human rights.
With ten albums, four EPs, and several split releases in their arsenal, Already Heard’s James Berclaz-Lewis and Tom Knott have taken on the distinct honor of highlighting five of the bands best songs from the last 20 years.
Power To The Peaceful
After bursting onto the punk scene screaming and flipping birds all around, Anti-Flag’s third album ‘Underground Network,’ was met with reactionary censorious debate regarding their songs surrounding the events of September 11th, 2001. The vengeful vitriol the band were subjected to seemed to have triggered a strong shift away from their previous commitment to antagonism toward a more mature, yet no less fierce, activism for peace, starting from their strong follow-up album ‘Mobilize.’ However, the prolific band waited another year to unleash their sound attack on militarism with catchy anthem ‘Power To The Peaceful.’ Certainly not the band’s most lyrically eloquent, it is nevertheless one of the band’s most politically potent songs, considering how unpopular (yet ultimately necessary) demands for peace were within the tangible atmosphere of vengeance that had conquered the USA after September 11th. (JBL)
1 Trillion Dollar$
‘For Blood And Empire’ is often considered like the beginning of something of a downward spiral for the band, as many fans genuinely struggled with the awkward combination of the band’s unwavering dissident messages and their association with a major label, as well as their obvious shift toward a more attractive poppy approach. The latter argument was, in reality, rather misplaced. The band had started introducing a less abrasive and more melodious style since ‘Mobilize’ and ‘The Terror State,’ but ‘For Blood And Empire’ really did stretch their spectrum much further than it had ever been. ‘1 Trillion Dollar$’ is a striking example of this new brand of variety. Substituting their usual direct humorlessness and brash pace for an acoustic guitar, mid tempos and a sugar-coated passive aggressiveness, the track is one of the most unique experiments of their repertoire, and one of their most provocative (there’s a lot of Dead Kennedys attitude here) efforts. (JBL)
Bring Out Your Dead
Anyone who happened to read my “Versus” article about Anti-Flag’s ‘Underground Network’ will know that I have very strong feelings about this song. A simple bass run used to perfection and a raspy voice at the top of its lungs. The chorus is simple but again the power of those vocals carries it through, whilst the bass and guitars work together to create a circle pit-demanding masterpiece. The outro, probably one of my favourite sections in the history of all music is untouchable. Another bass run taking the lead and those vocals at their angriest, grittiest best. Plus those lyrics just before the second chorus kicks in: “When politicians become nothing but major corporations, posing as humans. Real humans lose.” Well that gets me every time. (TK)
One People, One Struggle
“The people united, will never be defeated.” It’s not a new idea in punk rock but it’s a damn good one. I’ve seen this song live a few times and the chorus always kills it. Rarely have I felt as positive about life in general as I have when I’ve seen hundreds of people screaming this song; “One People, One Struggle, stand united, stand peaceful!” It’s a magic chorus, a simple idea taken to another level. People have often slated Anti-Flag for political sloganeering in place of hard facts at times but hell, if there’s a better slogan than this for the punk scene or the planet I’d like to hear it.
As in ‘Bring Out Your Dead,’ bassist Chris #2’s vocals are untouchable here. From the very bottom of his heart this song is sung out and the desperate belief and desire should be enough to get anyone on their feet. (TK)
No Borders, No Nations
I hadn’t heard this song for a long time before this morning when I was trying to pick out a third song. This track was on Anti-Flag’s ‘BYO Series’ split with The Bouncing Souls but seems to be one everybody knows. Live versions were included on both the ‘Death Of A Nation’ DVD and the ‘Benefit For Victims of Violent Crime’ album and are mega on each. There are two parts of ‘No Borders, No Nations’ that for me make it such a stand out track. Firstly, there’s the intro. A simple riff played beneath (who else but) #2’s brilliant vocal intro – “I always thought that if you want to change the world, then you have to start with yourself. So if the heads of state want to end terrorism, they should go ahead and kill themselves.” Then it breaks and for the next few minutes is an incredible example of angry, melodic punk rock – a fist in the air, sing along anthem – but then, the breakdown, slowing up before erupting into one of the band’s most excellent sing-alongs; “No Borders, No Nations. No Flags, No Patriots.” This is another song that needs to be seen live to be believed (like perhaps every Anti-Flag track) but, like the vast majority, it really does hold up on record. (TK)
Words by James Berclaz-Lewis (JBL) and Tom Knott (TK).