Release Date: April 1, 2008
Tracks: 12 plus 1 bonus
It seems like a mere few months since the whole Anti-Flag controversy over the switch from independent record labels, like Fat Wreck Chords and A-F Records, to major label RCA (Radio Corporation of America).
As it turns out though, For Blood and Empire was released an entire two years ago and now I feel It’s time to move on from the issue, step back, and look at what’s happening with the music of one of the most important modern punk bands.
To be fair, the last two album releases with RCA have seen Anti-Flag hit the US sales charts, where in past years they haven’t had the pleasure (although 2003’s The Terror State has Bright Lights beat by a decent margin, peaking at number 91).
While the band’s 2006 record had fans and critics focusing on musical integrity, The Bright Lights of America has us all looking past the superficiality of so-called sell-outs and looking for intensely personal messages from the songs since the murder of bassist Chris #2’s sister and boyfriend.
The band had admittedly put a great deal of emotion and new direction into this record because of the tragedy, which caused them to pull out of several tour dates last year when they were scheduled with Billy Talent and Rise Against. Arguably, Anti-Flag’s music has taken a small turn from the outright angry classic-esque punk rock to a more polished sound, and this has never been more apparent than on this particular album.
Neither the music nor any of the four band members have lost their focus on politics, humanitarianism, or what Hunter S. would have called ?Freak Power,? and Bright Lights is a truly subliminal, creative, and inspiring piece of work.
Chris Barker (a.k.a. #2) has spoken out about the incident concerning his sister and her boyfriend, and other members of the band have added a few comments to the slim profile of the killing that led the public to believe this has been a very stressful time for all the band members, not only in the obvious sense of the murder, but also in terms of their belief system.
Anti-Flag has always been a very vocal, grassroots humanitarian band and this is clear in all their music, no matter what year you pinpoint. As staunch humanitarians, the trial and entire process of American justice has threatened to shatter what the band members have stood up for their entire careers: understanding and forgiveness.
These 13 tracks (and several more bonus songs depending on which version of the album you buy or download) are a little more pointed than the last record, more specific in their storytelling, and overall completely enthralling.
Of course, the entire record must be heard in my opinion, but the star tracks of the album are the title track, ?Good and Ready,? ?The Modern Rome Burning,? ?If You Wanna Steal (You Better Learn How to Lie,? and ?Go West.?
Forget the RCA major-label bullshit. Appreciate these four amazing musicians and, to satisfy your curiosity, listen to what kind of music can be produced with a lot of talent, passion, and being on the edge of a major life tragedy that shakes your beliefs to the very core.