The General Strike
*1/2 out of ****
For anybody that has ever been a fan of punk rock music, Anti-Flag has released a new album called The General Strike. And while punk rock music may not be the blood that runs through my body, I have always greatly appreciated the raw, anemic power of the genre. The lyrics, the musical arrangements and the attitude are all so simple that it can be poignant and important while still being fun and danceable. With The General Strike, Anti Flag has found a way to be none of those things.
Listening to punk and expecting all kinds of intricate and complex chord structures is like listening to classical music and being upset when you can’t mosh to it. Even with the musical expectation bar set as low as it can go, Anti Flag was able to crawl on its belly and barely pass underneath it without having to pause and gasp for air half way through the journey. There are only so many ways that you can rearrange the same four power chords without becoming grating and sophomoric. And without great lyrics, the time this music takes to go from “hey, this is fun!” to “hey, this is terrible!” is a matter of minutes.
As you may have guessed, the crux of this particular review is the lyrical content because in the pie chart of punk rock, the lyrics are fully 70%.
Without great (or even good) lyrics, the seams of this genre show faster than almost any other. The only genre that comes to mind that I can compare this phenomenon to is rap. Without stellar flow and lyrics, rap music will make you want to bash your head against a wall until you’re twice as deaf as Brian Wilson. Punk rock is the same, and The General Strike will take every opportunity it can to remind you of that.
There is a song on this album called “The Neoliberal Anthem”. It is by far the best overall song, perhaps only because it is the first real tune, but the fact remains that it is very listenable. The lyrics, however, leave more than a little to be desired. But why would you believe me? I’m just some fucking hipster elitist, right? I’ll let you decide:
Destruction do it again x 4
Strap in and watch the world decay
The latest disaster today
This ain’t a fad, this aint a fashion
This is the world wide anthem
That’s basically the entire song, with minor adjustments. Is that even remotely clever? Shut up, I’ll answer that. The answer is no. There’s nothing about that stanza that took more than two minutes of thought. In fact, I bet some of you think I made that up as I was typing to make fun of Anti Flag and, by proxy, punk rock itself. I would never do that. These are the actual lyrics.
I get it. Punk rock is an attitude and a way of life. But the real attitude is one of accepting the unacceptable, a genuine mistrust of those in charge and an actual desire to change the injustices in the world. Without those true and honest feelings, punk rock sounds like some Hot Topic kids getting together that think punk rock is sloppy, fast and mindless. And while good punk rock is definitely the first two, it is on the other side of the world from that last one. This album is lazy, boring, overly polished and packaged for a generation of kids that will never know the true meaning of punk rock. Or Christmas.
Tracks to Dig: “Neoliberal Anthem” and “This is the New Sound”, the latter of which has one of the coolest punk bass riffs I’ve heard in a long time.
Tracks to Miss: Most, but specifically avoid “Nothing Recedes Like Progress”, an overblown, cliché laden attempt at being politically active that ends up showing how detached this band might actually be from reality.
Jason R. Noble