The seventh full-length Anti-Flag release (and first on Side One Dummy) starts off fast and furious with “Sodom, Gomorrah, Washington D.C. (Sheep in Shepherd’s Clothing)” as Chris #2 takes aim at those who use the Bible to control the masses, spitting out the lyrics with an urgency that makes his voice crack. If the album’s second track, “The Economy is Suffering…Let It Die,” isn’t nearly as reckless, it’s just as impassioned, recalling the more melodic moments on those first two albums by The Clash, as Justin Sane weighs in on the government bailouts of 2008, asking “Where are all the bailouts for the homeless and the poor?” It’s just the sort of question bands like Anti-Flag were born to ask. And there are plenty of those moments on “The People or the Gun.” Before they’re through, in fact, they’ve fired off a number of their most explosive political broadsides from the punk-rock trenches yet.
They may have lost their old arch nemesis in January, when he handed down the Oval Office to Barack Obama, but the Bush administration’s legacy should keep these guys in songs for years, from the War in Iraq to what his friends have done to our economy.They string together timely quotes from Woody Guthrie and Joe Strummer on “The Gre(A)t Depression,” an anthem that rocks like the moodier side of punk, and sing the praises of a workers revolution in “When All The Lights Go Out,” serving notice that “We are not human resources. We are human beings.”
As Sane explains the real-world inspirations fueling Anti-Flag’s best effort yet, "We find ourselves as survivors of eight years of George W. Bush's reign with a celebrity hype vs. hope complex, and an immense amount of work to do. These songs are just the beginning. It is not a song, a record, a t-shirt, or a band that changes and shapes the world. It’s community and union. Our band writes songs to build community and union, to create awareness and preparedness for when the students and workers of the world push to level the playing field and bring equality." So which side are you on? The People or the Gun?
After fulfilling their two-record contract with a major, RCA Records, the band built a studio in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, their hometown, to cut their first release for SideOneDummy. By having their own studio and not having to work on any schedule but their own, they feel they’re able to create statements and music that is relevant and timely – on their own terms. This is the fourth time an Anti-Flag album was born in Pittsburgh (three in a shithole, the other at Mr. Smalls Studios), which could explain why they feel those four albums – the others were “Die For The Government,” “A New Kind of Army” and “The Terror State” -- all share a similar soul.
As much as Pittsburgh has defined them, though, they’ve always done their best to take their message to the world at large. They’ve toured extensively in Russia, Scandinavia and Europe (in addition to the U.S.A., of course). They’ve appeared on the Big Day Out festival tour in Australia with Rage Against the Machine, Billy Bragg, Arcade Fire and Bjork. They were the only band to play two sets each day at the Leeds and Reading Festivals in England (rocking the main stage and the BBC Lock Up Radio Stage for a total of four sets in 35 hours). They they’ve headlined Rhein Kultur, the biggest free festival in Germany, taking their message to 50,000 Germans. Closer to home, they nearly got their heads kicked in by cops while performing two shows in Minneapolis around the RNC, one on the steps of the state capital, the other at the Target Center with Rage Against The Machine.
So what do they do for an encore? Take it up a notch. "With Russia, Estonia, Latvia, the U.K., the Warped Tour and South America already on our schedule, we plan to visit and tour more of the world than ever on this record,” says drummer Pat Thetic. “It’s become a main priority to put the emphasis of our band and every show we play on community, whether it be canned food drives for local food banks, raising money to build wells in Africa, which we did on our U.S. tour, or clothing drives for the homeless on our Canadian tour.”
In addition to raising funds for those who need it most, they’ve created the non-profit organizations Military Free Zone (combating a provision in the No Child Left Behind act that invades students’ privacy for Military Recruitment purposes) and Underground Action Alliance (a networking site for social justice). As Chris #2 says, “This is an extension of what our vision of punk rock is, was, and will always be."