Math rock legends American Football are somewhat of a myth. Their first, eponymous record drew immediate success before the band quickly pulled the plug on their act and called it quits after two quick years. Fifteen years later, the band have returned with their second record, also eponymously titled American Football.
What bothers me about modern punk and indie music that rooted from American Football is their lack of personality. A bunch of thirty year olds singing about teenagers' problems just doesn't seem genuine. American Football doesn't fall into that problem, luckily. The new songs feel very appropriate for them, not necessarily taking up a "sad boy" persona in the eyes of a young man, but through the eyes of a weathered soldier of life.
American Football's signature style was complex song structure and time signature changes. While song structure doesn't really stand out on American Football, there's still some complexity within it. The lead single 'I've Been So Lost For So Long' - which we reviewed here - carries some of those elements, time signature changes and polyrhythms building the song's body.
Beyond that, there's nothing much left but a pretty mellow record. The original American Football from 1999 felt like it had more grit to it, both vocally and instrumentally. The guitars are incredible polished and gentle on this record, while the original record had a bit of a reckless abandon to it. What's most striking is that this album sounds pretty. Listening to 'Where Are We Now?' is an odd experience, the album opener filled with reverberating, gentle guitar lines and splashy rhythm. Mike Kinsella has a much gentler tone on the entire record, especially evident in some of the more sincere songs, such as the brilliant 'Home Is Where The Haunt Is.' This song really makes you wish that the entire record had more acoustic elements - it would've translated much better than layers of guitar reverb. The sweet intro leads to a sweeter track, Kinsella singing of "The ghost in the corner of the room / Knows what you sleep in / When you’re dreaming, of who / Some things never change / Maybe that’s okay" in a tragic timbre. This plays back to the weathered nature of the record; it's writer has been hurt and experienced life's tragedy.
There's really not much else to comment on with the record. It picks up a bit in a few tracks, 'Desire Getting In The Way' being one such example. The guitar lick is a bit more perkier, and the beat having a bit more drive. The same is true for 'Give Me The Gun', which has a bit more fluidity in its drumming. The album ends on a sweet note, infectious guitar lines playing romantically above smooth basslines and deep brass instrumentation in 'Everyone Is Dressed Up'.
American Football has grown with the times, but perhaps are a bit too run down after being out of the band for fifteen years. Their new record is by no means bad, but does prove to be incredibly mellow throughout. It doesn't have much drive to it beyond the sweet wave it rides, and it really changes the dynamic of the band. It's a confusing record that'll take awhile to sink in, but it will definitely find its place.
Favorite Tracks: Home Is Where The Haunt Is, I've Been So Lost For So Long, Everyone Is Dressed Up
Least Favorite Tracks: Give Up The Gun
Rating: 71 / 100