Venerable nihilists in search of a breakout from behind the bars to the world that’s a stage.
Ever since anger became commercial commodity, it’s been losing the primal righteousness; that’s why working-class punks hit extinction – except for a few artists who simmered into today. Unlike many of their contemporaries, ANL aren’t a caricature of Nick Kulmer’s band from the ’80s, if only because the fearsome foursome never stopped progressing sound-wise and amassed enough elegant weight by now to embody a link between the ensemble’s original genre and NWOBHM. What makes them relevant, though, is concern about the ways of the world, and whereas the Brits’ erstwhile stance would be destructive, this time “Brick By Brick” bemoans the humanity’s tendency to build the beauty only to break it: that’s a finale of “The Cage” whose very title has made a castle much less than a home.
Still, if pessimism seems to set in from the moment “A Bad Storm” has welcomed the listener aboard a sinking ship, uncompromising is undermined, as the guys who couldn’t stand rock ‘n’ roll let their hair down on “Ain’t We ‘avin’ Fun.” It’s a party in time of plague – at the point of no return for the “Rule, Britannia” standard-bearers with their stiff upper lip – so the merry folk of “God Bless Alcohol” may indeed be a cry in the wilderness, but the ANL turn it into an adventure by adding a spaghetti western whistle ‘n’ twang to “The Last Cowboys” and wave goodbye to goodwill. Where the heavy hoo-ha’s of “Sealed With A Kiss” target religion, Tommy H’s guitar raving over the solid foundation of Shady’s bass and Nato’s drums, “Uncle Charlie” and “Punk Rock Girl” dig into the ensemble’s own mythology, and “Fields Of Yesterday” bucks the band’s belligerence with another traditional tune, yet “Time To Kill” is coiling in that righteous rage the other lost on their way to here and now.
As a result, the glorious – and slightly cartoonish – march of “Walk Away” is a way out of our current predicament as, again, symbolized by this album’s title. Wonderland of hope and glory can be at hand, so punk’s good ship Enterprise can deliver us there. Ahoy and amen!