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Whatever It Takes

Fistful of Revolution/Stars and Skulls EP: A-F Records

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Earlier this year, the Pittsburgh police joined forces with local political punkers Anti-Flag to stage a show & well, the police didn't really know they were helping organize. All they did was go out and arrest a bunch of anti-war protesters; the band responded with the show to raise loot for bail. Rumors abounded that dozens of neo-Nazis from Pennsyltucky were coming to breathe fire on kiddie punks; Ice-T wanted to snap up Anti-Flag as tour support (or maybe turn them out); and the show, albeit hastily thrown together, would sell out, with hundreds of kids left outside with no one to chaperone but Ice-T and a few neo-Nazis.

None of which came true. Pittsburgh's spikiest-haired export played what must've been one of the band's smallest shows in years, with little more than 100 in attendance. And it showed on the band, not as disappointment but as nostalgic excitement: After all, it's gotta suck being the little poli-punks that could, unable to do Roboto shows anymore, barely even the underdog.

And that's probably why Anti-Flag bassist and resident over-caffeinated restless young'un Chris #2 spends most of his off-time with Whatever It Takes, his punk-as-fuck side quartet (not the Brooklyn electroclash vixens). Whatever It Takes is everything Anti-Flag is: tight pogo-worthy punk rock, snotty screamed vocals, pick-slides and jump-off-stage anthems. But it's also everything they once were or never wanted to be: cries of teenage angst sans anti-neo-liberalist rant; experiments in distorted guitar interplay and textured rawk; the occasional potential emo hit. (Take the odd "fuck" out of "Pulse Rate," and you've got -- god forbid -- radio airplay.) Most of all, WIT has the cachet and, let's face it, the fun that goes with a relative unknown: "Yeah, but do you have the bass player's other band's disc?"

This full-length CD is actually two EPs, A Fistful of Revolution and the Stars & Skulls EP, combined into one disc. Still, it might be A-F Records' most cohesive non-Anti-Flag release yet: Whether it's the pop-mosh of "Not So Metal," the circle-pit-a-thon of "Flesh Eating 9 to 5 Virus," or the acoustic-led "Write For Your Life," it's entirely single-minded in its energetic appeal. A-F Records is turning into a major component in the modern-punk formula, and it's bringing Pittsburgh with it, with bands like The Code and Tabula Rasa breaking out. With a full-length of uninhibited (if non-groundbreaking) energetic punk, Whatever It Takes' days as the underground underdog may be numbered.

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