photo & text by nacrowe
i remember years ago reading an interview with PUBLIC ENEMY's CHUCK D where he stated that "RAP is BLACK AMERICA's CNN." that was sort of the vibe when i first came across the DIE FOR THE GOVERNMENT (NEW RED ARCHIVES, 1996) album by PITTSBURGH's unapologetically politically PROGRESSIVE PUNK ROCK band ANTI-FLAG. it seemed like every other song was a report on the state of the PUNK community writ large. CATCHY songs like "DRINK DRANK PUNK," "RED WHITE AND BRAINWASH," "PUNK BY THE BOOK," "FUCK POLICE BRUTALITY," "POLICE STATE IN THE USA" and of course "DIE FOR THE GOVERNMENT" were all ECONOMICALLY CONSTRUCTED for maximum sonic and lyrical potency a la THE RAMONES.
getting into ANTI-FLAG was not that much of reach when i learned about them from a friend my junior year in high school while living in KUWAIT. i was literally surrounded by an alien culture that was AGGRESSIVELY UNWELCOMING to the point of antagonism and shared little in the way of common values. attending high school in KUWAIT was pretty miserable. the country disallowed anyone of JEWISH descent a visa so anti-semitism was pretty rampant as well as open racism against foreign workers from NEPAL, INDIA, SUDAN, INDONESIA and so on. and forget about any mention of homosexuality or recognition of religions outside of CHRISTIANITY and ISLAM. i quoted BUDDHA in a few of my term papers in english class and my teacher literally had to burn the paper after grading it, less she get found out by the authorities for allowing me to reference him on record and get her work visa revoked.
for ANTI-FLAG, they were earnestly and passionately singing about the perils of AMERICAN democracy and the hypocrisy of its ECONOMIC, POLITICAL and CULTURAL HEGEMONY. i understood that. but i was living in a what actually felt like a police state, where going out with my friends came with actual risk because of who we were and what we represented to a society irrevocably warped by RELIGION, POWER and (lots of) MONEY. the DEBAUCHERY and DEBASEMENT i witnessed as an upperclassman is something i still think about to this day. i wont go into specifics in this forum.
i guess what i am trying to say is that it felt like i was living through what ANTI-FLAG was only imagining. in retrospect i think they were limited in form and content by veering so hard towards TRADITIONAL PUNK ROCK REVIVALISM on those first few records and have been happy to see that they evolved out of such over the years, becoming more MELODIC and SONG-DRIVEN. my early sense was that frontman JUSTIN SANE was a talented songwriter, but being so fanatically beholden to a certain STRUCTURE and VIEWPOINT made them a little STALE and DERIVATIVE a la THE CLASH in later years.
outside of its CAUSTIC and RIGHTEOUS energy, i dont know if DIE FOR THE GOVERMENT has aged well but it takes me right back to feeling ALIENATED and OSTRACIZED as a teenager living abroad in the MIDDLE EAST. even today i dont look back at that time fondly. literally just glad i survived.