Let’s just get this out of the way: if you like both Anti-Flag and The Clash, you’re going to enjoy yourself here. It’s comfortable — new takes on old songs. And yet somehow nothing here sounds stale.
The bulk of the record (four of the seven songs) was recorded live-to-tape at Hollywood’s Swing House Studios for the Complete Control radio show. This is a few of the band’s best-known songs — “The Economy is Suffering,” “Turncoat” and “This is the End” — plus a cover of The Clash’s “Should I Stay Or Should I Go.” The band also threw in a couple other Clash covers — “White Riot,” a studio version of “Should I Stay or Should I Go” and a medley of “Guns of Brixton” and “I Fought the Law.”
There may not be any new songs on here, per se, but the recordings are pretty fresh. They’ve got the energy of a live Anti-Flag show and are blissfully without the intense production that comes with a true studio record. While there aren’t really any obvious musical imperfections in the songs, the occasional mic pop will remind you that this is a live performance.
The three Anti-Flag songs are pretty straightforward, without much deviation from the album versions or, for that matter, from the versions the band plays live. The real gems here are the Clash songs.
The Clash can be tricky for a band to cover — they’re so iconic that too much deviation can be off-putting to longtime fans yet unique enough that a note-for-note copy will usually fall flat. For the most part, Anti-Flag strikes the right balance between the two ends of the spectrum.
The only problem with this album is that the two versions of “Should I Stay or Should I Go” feel excessive. There are subtle differences between the two — the live recording feels a little faster and the studio version has slicker production — but they are similar enough to beg the question of why it was necessary to include them both.They are equally well-done, yet it seems like that seventh track could have been put to better use with yet another Clash cover or an additional redux of one of their own songs.
That said, the band does The Clash justice. “Guns of Brixton/I Fought the Law” is the standout track on the EP, with the band taking two songs that are very different from each other — the original “Guns of Brixton” is a slow, reggae-infused track whereas “I Fought the Law” is a straightforward rocker — and blended them together in a way that feels completely seamless and natural. “White Riot” keeps the same intensity of the original, revving up the speed a little bit, and comes in a close second to the medley.
So while you’re not going to hear any brand new material from this record, if you like both bands, especially if you’ve been to an Anti-Flag show and enjoyed yourself, the EP is worth picking up. This third installment of the Complete Control Sessions will be released on September 27. “White Riot” and “The Economy is Suffering” are available for streaming.