When it comes to aggressive, intense and politically-driven punk music, the first band that usually
comes to mind is, Anti-Flag. The Pittsburgh outfit have produced some amazing albums over the
years. Albums that are politically charged with lyrics about activism, anti-imperialism, class struggle,
human rights, and various socio-political ideologies. They make their voices heard, yet at the same
time, make compelling music that does more than just yell at you. They have a strong sense of
melody and are able to produce hooks that really stick in your head. Mixing this with their gut
punching lyricism and it’s easy to see why they have endured as long as they have. This brings us to
their new acoustic compilation album, American Reckoning. A collection of songs from the last two
records, American Spring and American Fall, reworked acoustically.
I will say that the acoustic style really adds that raw edge to their music. It gives those harsh lyrics
that bit more bite. Songs like “American Attraction” & “The Debate Is Over” have this wonderful
tone to them as the harmonies come through beautifully and the guitar riffs create an excellent
depth. I feel like stripping things back makes for a more dynamic and richer sound from them. Also,
it makes their points that much clearer when you don’t have layers, upon layers of guitar distortion.
Big hits such as “Racists” and “Brandenburg Gate” have that little more impact when you hear Justin
Sane shout the words over the more subdued acoustic guitars. Also, the vocal harmonies are well
mixed and sound excellent.
In addition, the album contains three covers done in their style with the full band, amped up and in
full punk rock mode. The songs are “Gimme Some Truth” (original by John Lennon), “For What It’s
Worth” (a Buffalo Springfield cover) and “Surrender” (by Cheap Trick). I’m in two mind sets about
these songs. Whilst I like them and their well performed. I don’t like their placement on an acoustic
album. If they were acoustic covers then I think I would have been fine. Yet, right after a great
rendition of “Brandenburg Gate” it smash cuts to the hard guitars of the John Lennon cover. This
leaves some tonal whiplash, when listening to the album as a straight play through. They’re not bad
covers at all and Anti-Flag play them very well and with a lot of passion. They just feel misplaced.
For me this is a pretty fun album. Being a fan of Anti-Flag already this was a nice accompaniment to
their recent work. If the loud punk sound of Anti-Flag puts you off then this could, potentially, be a
nice entry point to their music. Though, I think this is something for the fans to enjoy as it’s
something a little different from their usual output. The overall sound is nice and the production is
excellent. It gives the band the opportunity to rework their material and make the messages in those
songs pop a little more. The misplaced covers aside, I really like it and am always glad to hear more