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Anti-Flag: American Spring

Tenth from Pittsburgh agit-punks.

Anti-Flag are a political project as much as a musical one. American Spring adds to their list of thoughtfully provocative, tabloid-canny album titles and sleeves, backed by a radical how-to kit of essays and sleeve notes.

Rock is still a place for such voices of dissent, but you need great songs to be heard, and Anti-Flag struggle to wed emotion to their slogans. Brandenburg Gate does manage a touch of Berlin Wall-broken romance, while sounding like a Springsteen heartland rocker. Rancid’s Tim Armstrong joins in, and Tom Morello (RATM) guests elsewhere.

A slick, punchy production gives some pop momentum to Justin Sane’s vocals, but it’s when the songs are carried by his guitar that American Spring sounds ready to bloom. His speeding, gleaming work on the Stooges-heavy Sky Is Falling ramps up some of the excitement that even minor revolutions need.

Anti-Flag are closer to rock’s roots than most of their ska-happy peers are, nearer in spirit to Country Joe And The Fish at Woodstock than Green Day, but on record they’re still just a tonic for the punk troops./o:p