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Anti-Flag, ‘For Blood and Empire’ (RCA)

This is what I know about politics from listening to punk-rock bands for the past couple of years: George Bush sucks. I know there’s been some mention of Noam Chomsky and how he thinks we should abort the corrupt government agency known as “the media” and possibly exterminate our failed democracy entirely (let’s don’t and say we did). But that’s about it. Almost 30 years after the Clash and Dead Kennedys, almost 20 years after Public Enemy and Fugazi, and almost two years after punk authority figures finally decided that it mattered who won the presidency, the familiar rhetoric drones on. Buy our rad CD, DVD, logo tee, mouse pad…and oh yeah, war sucks.

It’s a retread of the Reagan-is-Satan hardcore ’80s — except with online merch. Why should punk vets ever move past their redneck-baiting, Christian-bashing, faux-socialist song and dance when it’s such a successful brand? Take For Blood and Empire, the eighth album (and major-label debut) by sloganeering Pittsburgh operatives Anti-Flag. It’s an anti-everything tantrum launched with three-chord guitar guff, emo-whoa vocals, and bleeding visuals of guns, graves, helicopters, and oil fields; its song titles bloviate morbidly: “The W.T.O. Kills Farmers,” “The Press Corpse,” “State Funeral.” There’s even the requisite martial chant of “one-two-three-four” to mock militaristic conformity. And you thought Rage Against the Machine could have benefited from some subtlety or self-deprecation? Rage guitarist and starry-eyed Cuban revolutionary Tom Morello even sits in on “Depleted Uranium Is a War Crime.”

These guys are pro players. Bassist Chris #2’s dexterous runs — executed while he and guitarist/vocalist Justin Sane wail about yanking democracy’s “feeding tube” — are impressive. They should be, since the band (original members Sane and drummer Pat Thetic, in particular) has been lighting the same sparkler for years. But if all you do is endlessly browbeat 14-year-olds into raving that America is a fascist state — sure to become a joke to them as they reach Anti-Flag’s age — then maybe it’s time to grow up yourselves.

See also: U.K. Subs, Another Kind of Blues (RCA, 1979)