Indie rock legends American Football announced late last year that they would be delivering their third self-titled record American Football on March 22, and that this effort will be a different one for them. The band cited everything from an evolved sound to features that would make this album unique from the others, and the newest single from the record certainly shows it. In their new song ‘Uncomfortably Numb,’ American Football, with the help of Paramore‘s Hayley Williams, tell the painful and multi-leveled story of a man who lost everything.
American Football’s music has always had a way of perfectly capturing a state of mind, and ‘Uncomfortably Numb’ is no different. The song’s lyrics are chillingly specific, though that’s all part of the band’s magic. Mike Kinsella‘s clean delivery helps show a clear yet dark history, the first verse mourning: “Sensitivity deprived, I can't feel a thing inside / I blamed my father in my youth / Now as a father, I blame the booze.“ Each verse only becomes more and more weary and distant as the reality of the narrator’s situation becomes more real. Hayley Williams’ verse comes from a different perspective: the person who’s tried everything to help the narrator, but has finally given up. Her verse painfully ends as she sees what the narrator has become, crying “I've tried, but you've won / Comatose, like father, like son.“ The song is a clear twist on the famous lyric from Pink Floyd‘s ‘Comfortably Numb,’ which deepens the song just a little more: ‘Comfortably Numb’ is a song you probably heard from your dad first, and the fact that the narrator is constantly alluding to the bond between father and son makes this track feel like the soundtrack to a father who is conscious of his downfall. The song ends when the narrator reaches the lowest point of his life, Kinsella and Williams both singing the harrowing final lines: “I just want you home / I'll make new friends / In the ambulance.“
Beyond the lyrics, the instrumental adds a lot of character to the track as well, while also showing what American Football meant by an “expanded soundscape.” The song begins with a shuffling, light drumbeat and warm, shimmering guitars that add a familiar yet distant tone to song. The instrumental doesn’t change notably throughout the track, but the parts are all written so beautifully that they never get old. The vocals are all sung in a hopeful and feathery way, as if trying to ignore the lyrics’ subject matter. When Kinsella and Williams harmonize, it’s almost as if the same story is being told by the two different perspectives they take on, which adds an even deeper level to the brilliance of this track.
It’s not often that a unique spin on an old classic becomes a classic in its own right. In ‘Uncomfortably Numb,’ American Football tell the heartbreaking tale of a man who lost everything in his life as he watched it fall apart in front of him, left to face his loved ones (who tell their side of the story through Hayley Williams’ feature) during the lowest point of his life. The song seems so simple and optimistic on the surface, but in truth, this is one of the most powerful tracks American Football, let alone any band, has written in years.
Rating: 94 / 100
Stream or buy ‘Uncomfortably Numb’ on Apple Music, and follow our 2019 Playlist on Spotify: