Listening to “The People or The Gun,” Anti-Flag’s seventh full length studio album, you get the impression that these boys could not possibly want to stick it to the man any more than this. In a time when you might naively expect protest bands to sit back, relax and loosen up a little as they survey today’s improved political landscape, Anti-Flag gives the world the middle finger and tears into the establishment with flat-out, roaring punk rock.

From a melodic, catchy chorus point of view Anti-Flag is probably more fun to listen to than their modern punk rock counterparts, the likes of Rancid or Rise Against. But they also appear to be a whole lot angrier. Even their song titles take shots at everything from fervent evangelists (“Sodom, Gomorrah and Washington D.C.”) to the recession (“The Economy Is Suffering…Let It Die”) and the ongoing war (“No Way Without Warriors (How Do You Sleep?)”). These songs are stuffed to bursting point with a myriad of different protests and they become rather intense to listen to if you’re paying attention to the lyrics at all (instead of just jamming to the driving guitars).

A glimmer of optimism arrives in the form of “This Is The First Night,” where the band is still telling authority to get lost but singing “welcome to the first night of the rest of our lives” with hope and what might even pass as excitement. It’s also got an anthemic, sing-a-long ending that will really get a crowd going.

Since it only has eleven tracks, Anti-Flag sure manages to pack a lot of substance into “The People Or The Gun.” It’s in-your-face and too loud at times (“You Are Fired (Take This Job)”) and energetically rowdy and catchy during others (“The Gre(A)t Depression”). But by the end of the record the band has laid it all out for you by raising a lot of pertinent issues and shown themselves to be strongly on the side of the people, while leaving you wondering just what side you might be on. That recipe definitely makes for a successful punk rock record, if ever there was one.