Anti-Flag are releasing their tenth record, American Fall, on Friday, Nov. 3. The band is known for the incendiary themes of their music, and it won't be any different this time.
According to bassist Chris #2, the album—co-produced by Benji Madden—will focus on politics, considering all the controversies surrounding the 2016 presidential election.
To celebrate the release, Chris #2 shared some of his favorite political lyrics and what he thinks the meanings behind them are—or what they mean to him, both personally and politically.
“If they come for you in the night/They will come for me in the morning.”
Just a simple lyric of solidarity. I’ve learned through now 10 records (American Fall is our tenth), that the goal isn’t “write a song, change the world.” It doesn’t work like that. However, these records are a document of where we are in history, what our stance was. Will we be on the right side of history in regards to human rights, health care, trans, gay, immigrant and refugee rights? Will we exhaust all at our disposal to eradicate racism? This particular song exists in hopes that when we’re long gone and in the ground, someone will find this song; and when they think about 2017 and the rhetoric of the fascist Donald Trump regime, they can know that four kids from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania stood in opposition to all forms of bigotry.
“Behold the sparkle of champagne
The crime rate’s gone, feel free again
Oh, life’s a breeze with you, Miss Lily White
Jane Fonda on the screen today
Convinced the liberals it’s okay
So let’s get dressed and dance away the night”
This is the first band that actually made politics, and channeling my frustration about injustice, seem understandable. I found this band when I was young and just discovering punk. I didn’t feel like the status quo represented or valued empathy, and frankly, it pissed me off. This track was the perfect amount of anger, sarcasm and truth that I needed at that time. This lyric was so ahead of its time. As we do our postmortem of the Obama era and the neoliberalism that thought Hillary Clinton was a shoe-in, let’s do the work to ask for something better. No more “next time.”
“Reading my rights and shit, it’s all junk
Pulling out a silly club, so you stand
With a fake-ass badge and a gun in your hand
But take off the gun so you can see what’s up
And we’ll go at it, punk, and I’ma fuck you up!”
Again, a coming-of-age tale… My brother was always at odds with the law. He was always being harassed by our local police department. This extended into my whole family. My mother, the strongest, most badass woman I know, raised the three of us on her own. When the cops were going after my brother, they would say shit to me, as well. I remember being 9 or 10 years old and having a cop say, “We’re gonna take your brother.” It made me anxious, afraid and, once again, angry. One night, I heard this sound coming from my brother’s car as he worked on it. This lyric: It was so beyond any level of confrontation I could imagine. They stood up to racist cops, stared them in the face and then spit.
“If you’re sleeping, I will wait
If your bed is wet, I will dry your tears
I love you
I am the milkman of human kindness.”
Just a perfect song. The perfect display of how powerful one sentiment can be with just a guitar and voice delivering it. This was an eye-opener for me; it brought the idea of empathy to the core of my songwriting, the idea of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. Not speaking for them, not saving them, but identifying in their struggle and trying your damndest to provide some semblance of solidarity with them.
This lyric, it’s a love song, it’s a political song—there is no separation in the two.
You have the right not to be killed
Murder is a crime
Unless it was done
By a policeman
Or an aristocrat”
If there was a reason that the Clash are my second-favorite band, it would be this song. Just Joe [Strummer] being able to take seemingly simple ideas and make them seem huge and new and thought-provoking. This is another main songwriting goal I have tried desperately to adapt: Writing the lyric that is so simple, you curse yourself for not writing it first. “Know your rights:” This lyric is the first right. It harkens to Pete Seeger’s “What Did You Learn In School Today?”. Police murder is an epidemic in 2017; it was in ’77 when the Clash wrote this, too.
“Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind
It’s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down”
Honestly, I just recently dove into this track hard. I kinda stayed away from “pop Vietnam era” folk/rock music. I mean, I like Creedence Clearwater Revival… but for me it was always Phil Ochs or nothing else. This song has recently blown my mind and is so apropos for today, I’m trying to convince the rest of the guys to cover it. It’s a pop/rock song, but the formula of its structure is pure folk music. The lyrics and message are genius. I’m glad I found it. This lyric is so poignant, every movement of progress is deemed “unfavorable” while it’s happening. Protest is not meant to be uncomfortable. If you look at history, people hated when Jesse Owens raised his fist, the same way they talk about [Colin] Kaepernick’s knee. Be on the right side of history, people.
“When they dropped the bomb on the building to kill a MOVEment
Did they care where the rights of the murdered went?
Police terror in the eyes of the children
Police terror in the streets of every town.”
This song. This band. This is everything that punk rock should be. Social, racial and economic at the forefront of every single second of music that they create. If you are lucky enough to see or have seen Strike Anywhere play this song and I am in a 50-mile radius, I will appear on stage and sing this song. These particular lyrics mention the MOVE bombing in an amazingly sharp and powerful way. I know educating countless and shining the light on something is tremendously important.
“You can’t make it go away,
So why endanger womyn’s lives?
Because the issue here for you isn’t life…
Control of what we do and say, but you'll never gain control”
This track is on the second Anti-Flag record [1999’s A New Kind Of Army] and the first I played on. When I got the demos, this one automatically stuck with me. An abortion rights song, pushing the boundary of discourse on women’s and reproductive rights. I was honored to be a part of some of Justin’s best lyrics.