Written by Sean Tanner
NEW ALBUM CALLS OUT THE WRONGDOINGS OF BOTH POLITICAL PARTIES
Arguably no band has stayed truer to punk’s political roots than Anti-Flag. Since 1988, the Pittsburgh quartet has ceaselessly espoused human rights with infectious earworms that get the crowd moving. Their new full length, 20/20 Vision, is another rumination on the state of American politics, with the main focal point being Donald Trump and the ideology encompassing him.
The opening track, “Hate Conquers All”, leads with a soundbite of Trump at a rally pining for a time when police could more easily use threats and violence to deter protests. Lines like, “no one could save us, so build up and lock the gate”, provide the most concise summary of how fear-mongering and scapegoating shape current American policies. If you’re afraid the band has given in to cynicism, drummer Pat Thetic assures otherwise.
“Cynicism, to me, means that you’re frustrated, angry, and you’re giving up and you say there’s no point to it,” he says. “I would argue that the anger, the frustration, and the passion that you feel makes you want to create change. So I don’t see that as cynicism, I see that as a good thing. I think that’s what we’re trying to key in to with this record and these songs. It is broken, but if you and I feel the same way, we can organize and change it.”
The album’s tenor frequently jumps back and forth between catchy exuberance and aggressive middle-finger flipping anthems like “Unbreakable” and “You Make Me Sick”. The penultimate track ”Un-American” breaks from that pattern with its solemn requiem for the American dream, before “Resistance Frequencies” rebukes the corrupt.
Thetic observes that while mainstream culture may have changed because of how politicized everything is and “What a douche Trump is”, people still think that there are politicians out there looking out for them. He says the punk landscape has remained mostly the same because the punk rock community has always realized that power is corrupt. The people on the left in the punk rock world are always fighting against that power.
“Obama killing people with drones was a war crime,” he says. “Just the same as when Trump does it. I think if Hillary Clinton was president she would also be killing people with drones.”
When it comes to who he thinks should become president, he makes it abundantly clear that he is no Democrat, and has about as little love for that party as he does for the Republicans.
“I think the Democrats are pieces of shit just as much as the Republicans… However, if it is a necessary evil to get rid of Trump, I think that anybody is a better option,” Thetic continues. “Bernie Sanders is an independent, and a socialist, depending on whether you believe the arguments or not. I don’t think he’s a real socialist, but if he’s willing to take on the name of a democratic socialist, I will back him.”
“Christian Nationalist” is an uptempo rejection of alt-right politics and a warning against attempts to bring their ideas into the mainstream. The line, “we all know who you are” ties together past and present, and reminds us all to learn from history.
“We’ve seen the Christian right-wing active for a long time. They speak in codes and dog whistles, in winks and nods. What has changed about the neo-nazis of 2020, is that they’ve been given the green light to exist, whereas before they were in the shadows. Nobody wanted to speak of them in public. We’ve always felt they were there, but as they’ve become mainstream, we felt we needed to address them very clearly.”
Thetic concludes, “Go to a show, go to an art opening, go to a bar that has people who feel the same way you do, and you’ll realize that you’re not alone, that the people in power are crazy and it’s not you who’s crazy for disagreeing with them. For our whole history, we’ve felt that at punk rock shows, we’ve gone there and felt like we can organize and make a change. It looks bleak, but the only way change happens is from the bottom, it never comes from the top down. So organize and get in the streets and make lasting change happen.”