Anti-Flag – Lies They Tell Our Children (Album Review)

Anti-Flag – Lies They Tell Our Children (Album Review)

There’s a recent meme that urges readers to stroll casually into 2023 while remaining on their best behavior; show the utmost respect and, for the love of the goddess, don’t touch anything that might ignite another tumultuous year. Great advice—unless you’re the Punk titans of Anti-Flag. Then, the best course of action is to make as much noise as possible while spreading awareness, education, and killer Rock-n-Roll. Luckily, this is exactly what they intend to do on Lies They Tell Our Children, which arrives Friday, January 6, 2023, thanks to Spinefarm Records.

No shock, really, since Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s beloved activists have been spreading enlightenment for over three decades. From 1996’s Die for the Government to 2020’s 20/20 Vision, they’ve built a home for themselves upon a foundation of historical research, progressive advocacy, civil and animal rights, and the desire to see peace. With all of this comes keen lyrical commentary that has spanned a generation, words that promote the core belief that knowledge is power and each of us has the means to embrace self-evolution.

Never shying away from the things that must be said, Anti-Flag—Vocalist/Guitarist Justin Sane, Vocalist/Bassist Chris #2, Guitarist Chris Head, and Drummer Pat Thetic—are ready to face down 2023 with the 11-song Lies They Tell Our Children. Produced by Jon Lundin (Good Charlotte, Senses Fail), the record is a sonic evolution meant to take a spork to the eyeballs of the capitalist regime, one that places profit above people. No big surprise, as many of the issues that are close to the band’s heart—universal healthcare, environmental preservation—are continuously stymied by this very same agenda.

In response, throughout every chord of their latest, these subversive songwriters confront everything from accountability and the whitewashing of truth to how we arrived at such a polarized state. No, Anti-Flag didn’t create this situation in which capitalism has made us all commodities, Mother Earth is our toilet, and we’re all meant to “work and struggle and be grateful for it,” but they definitely have something to say about these modern tragedies.

Lies They Tell Our Children opens with the somber strum of “Sold Everything,” a quick aperitif that sets the frustrated tone for a collection that continuously revisits the themes of excess. The proper first track, “Modern Meta Medicine,” is no different: a look at American greed, truth, and the delusional pursuit of the universal cure-all. A panacea for the ears, the song features guest vocals from Jesse Leach of Killswitch Engage, a flawless addition to the Anti-camp.

This is another thing about the record: it offers up quite a few guest appearances, all of which are superbly suited to their respective tracks. There’s singer-songwriter Tré Burt, who blesses the powerful “Shallow Graves” with his talented vocals, while Bad Cop/Bad Cop’s Stacey Dee helps the melodic framework of “NVREVR” to soar. Silverstein’s Shane Told steps in for “Laugh. Cry. Smile. Die,” which gifts the album its title, and, somewhat surprisingly, Campino of German Punk titans Die Toten Hosen delivers on “Victory or Death (We Gave ‘Em Hell)”. Yet, these are not the only guests to appear throughout Lies They Tell Our Children.

One of Anti-Flag’s most powerful moments in recent years, “The Fight of Our Lives” sits as a heavy-weight contender for the album’s brightest. Launching with palpable intensity, its urgency is a brilliant contrast to its subject matter: disgust with those that continue to stonewall every effort toward advancement, fighting an “us versus them” power struggle rather than focusing on the betterment of humanity (and sanity). And, of course, if you’re going to craft a brilliant protest song, including Rise Against’s Tim McIlrath and Bad Religion’s Brian Baker is the raspberry puree atop the (vegan) brownie.

Although, “The Fight of Our Lives” is far from alone in its contention for powerhouse offering. The previously mentioned earworm “Victory or Death (We Gave ‘Em Hell)” provides echoes of tracks such as “Brandenburg Gate” as its call-to-arms feels like a proud salute to the courageous spirit of anyone who has dared to “ring the bell.” This, too, is mirrored in the Oi-dusted “Imperialism,” where Pinkshift’s Ashrita Kumar helps the boys to reflect on oppressive forces of the past and present. 

All this as they dig through the ditches on the greed-fueled “Work & Struggle” and create a wall of sound on the edgy rocker “The Hazardous,” before ending with the self-inflated ecstasy of “Only In My Head.” Not the strongest entry on the record, but far from filler, it serves as a suitable send-off to the Pennsylvanians’ lucky thirteenth gem.

Still, it is a collection that continues to toy with creative nuance and progressive ideals, Lies They Tell Our Children juxtaposes angelic vocals (Tré Burt, we’re looking at you!) and upbeat feels with macabre realities. Much as 20/20 Vision’s “Un-American” took a sardonic Americana spin, their latest plays with incongruencies, compositionally speaking, as the quartet continues their fight for betterment.

So, sure, one doesn’t dance into any Anti-party and expect to depart with red, white, and blue confetti in their bra, but there is something to be said for a band with the courage to continue evolving their sound as they provide a safe-haven for the like-minded. For providing intelligence and hope in these dark times, Cryptic Rock gives Anti-Flag’s latest 5 out of 5 stars.

Anti-Flag – Lies We Tell Our Children Album Art / Spinefarm Records

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Jeannie Blue
[email protected]

Jeannie likes to joke that she is little, yellow, blue, and different. She seemingly popped out of her mother's womb with a pen in her hand and has been writing ever since. Many moons ago - in what feels like a separate lifetime - Jean was co-editor of an online music magazine that afforded her great opportunities to interview and photograph some of her favorite bands/musicians: Tommy Lee, Good Charlotte, Warrant, Bring Me The Horizon, My Chemical Romance, Sevendust, New Found Glory, Deftones, Poison, VH-1 "Band On the Run" Flickerstick, an endless list of unsigned locals, and so many others. These days, she can usually be found hiking aimlessly through the woods in her favorite Technicolor sneakers with a Nikon in hand and her rescue dog, Molly, who is a bit hare-brained.

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