Album Review: Anti-Flag “20/20 Vision”
Written by Zac McDowell on February 9, 2020
Title: 20/20 Vision
Record Label: Universal Music Operations Limited, Spinefarm Records
Release Date: January 17th, 2020
Pittsburgh-based punk trio Anti-Flag dropped their 12th studio album 20/20 Vision on Jan. 17, 2020. This is a change of pace from their previous release American Fall (2017) as it features different types of songs on this record. This album blatantly references Donald Trump not only on the cover of the album, but they use voice clips taken from him on the very first song. Lyrical themes from this record include nationalism, religion, war, imperialism, left-leaning politics and critical social commentary on the current political environment. Being an obvious concept album revolving around the Trump Administration, I was very eager to listen to the full album. To say the least, I was pretty pleased with what I heard, both instrumentally and lyrically.
The record opens up with “Hate Conquers All”, which feature voice clips of Trump talking about his view on protesting, and how using force would get them to stop. Throughout the album, two-part vocal harmonies are utilized and even three-part harmonies. This includes yelling over singing, and a main melody with harmonizing backup vocals. There were also songs that were the classic “skate punk sound”; fast and loud — “It Went Off Like a Bomb”, “A Nation Sleeps”.
The title track, “20/20 Vision”, touches on themes of unity across the world and the eventual end of all war. It features a very sing-songy chorus which sounds okay but can get old and bland very quickly, no matter how catchy it is. This song transitions very well into “Christian Nationalist”, a critical take on religious extremists and a subtle jab at Trump. “Christian Nationalist” begins with an electric church organ, an ironic choice for an instrument given the name of the song. “Don’t Let the Bastards Get You Down” however, did not do it for me. It is just very repetitive and went longer than necessary. The message was already received, but the choruses were repeated a lot.
“Unbreakable” has a very nice meaning to it (never backing down), and it ended up being one of my favorites from this record. The instrumentals are nothing special, but it still sounds great and the lyrics present a very positive message, something that the punk community needs during these trying times. “A Nation Sleeps” was the fastest on the album and the shortest in length at 2:17. It is a very solid track, featuring fast, in your face guitar power chords and yelling vocals.
Getting to the end of the album, the last two tracks are a breath of fresh air, and a break from the usual punk sound. “Un-American” is an acoustic, softer song, which presents a nice change of pace in the record. It was included rather later; I would have placed it further up on the record, perhaps in the middle somewhere.
Lastly, “Resistance Frequencies” is a ska song of all things, featuring horns and guitars on the upbeat. It was a great end to the album as a failing radio frequency is heard after the song ends, which eventually fades into static. This record was a great addition to Anti-Flag’s discography. Though it was not their best material, it was a very political conscious album needed in the punk community, and the music community in general.