“The American Dream Died”

by Thor

New York City hardcore royalty Agnostic Front is back with “The American Dream Died” (Nuclear Blast).

This band has been doing what they do for 35 years now and while they’ve evolved from album to album, their essential core has never changed.  Whether it’s pure punk or crossover thrash, every album features Roger Miret belting out anthem-like truisms about life on the city streets.  And through the grimy, hardscrabble depictions of being young and barely working-class, AxFx has always included some of what I call “aggressive optimism”—talking about hope and positivity in terms and aesthetics that speak directly to pissed off poor white city kids.  On “The American Dream Died,” there’s a lot less optimism and a lot more bitter anger.  And while that ratio is different than 2011’s “My Life My Way,” for example, it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Musically, “The American Dream Died” is very much in crossover-thrash territory with an emphasis on the thrash.  This is arguably Agnostic Front’s heaviest album as it features down-tuned guitars, lots of speed, and more double bass drumming than is typical.  Miret does his thing, but he does it with a noticeable added bit of snarl.  The band’s overall approach sounds like what the lyrics express: “We’re pissed the fuck off at the pigs that killed the American Dream.”

Lyrically, there are no metaphors, zero allegories, hell, there’s barely any figurative language at all.  It’s simple, to-the-point, and pointed.  Miret rails on austerity as a reaction to tax payer-funded Wall Street bailouts, violent and aggressive police tactics, underfunding the VA, war in general, and corporate fascism.  On the relatively rare occasions the topics veer toward the personal, the band laments the loss of old New York City—the one where CBGBs thrived and the best movies played on 42nd Street.  And despite the fact that I’m surrounded by hundreds of miles of cornfields and cattle and beer and cheese here in Wisconsin, I found it easy to be down with the message in its entirety.  After all, staying relevant to the disaffected, the angry, and the misunderstood among us is the secret sauce in the Agnostic Front recipe.  They do it honestly, effectively, and here they do it on a larger scale that transcends street life.

“The American Dream Died” is Agnostic Front at its angriest, at its heaviest and firing on all cylinders.  It may lack some of the emotional variety of albums past, but after five years of Tea Party politics and the corporate media-facilitated division and dumbing down of our families, friends, and neighbors, ANGER seems to be just fine.