American Football is an American Emo band from Illinois. They released their critically acclaimed self-titled album American Football, released in 1999. Since their breakup in September 1999, they had of course ceased recording with one another, but in April 2014, they announced that they would reform to perform a number of live performances throughout 2014 leading into 2015. In August 2016, the band announced the release of a second self-titled album.
Personally, I am a huge fan of American Football’s debut album, and have been for quite a while; so I would be of course excited to hear their new record. Well, kind of. After 17 years you would of course expect a lot of evolution of sound within a new album, and I wasn’t sure if I was ready for this. Can they still write angst filled emo songs like they did when they were teenagers? I could only hope so…
The first track of the LP, Where Are We Now really had me at the edge of my seat, the slowly growing introduction was a build-up that created so much tension for me, and I was just afraid I would be let down. Well, thankfully I wasn’t, but I wasn’t so much celebrating either; more of an “oh”. It is quite clear that American Football had stuck to the same math-rock-emo sound, but this time with much clearer and less whiney vocals- but isn’t that what we loved about them in the first place? I’ll allow you to decide that one for yourselves. I mean, of course after 17 years Mike Kinsella would have matured in terms of his singing style, so I can’t really take it away from him; the vocals are still great, but a little part of me wishes he was the same old sad teen he was back in 1999. This is still a great opener for the album, and really sets the foundation for the follow up tracks. The elegant guitar melodies throughout this track are fantastic, and they create an atmosphere similar to their debut, which is perfect for the opener of a comeback album after so long.
The third track Home Is Where the Haunt Is at first struck me as very corny in terms of lyrics, but as the song progresses, I found myself really enjoying it. The instrumentation throughout this track is beautiful, and the lyrics eventually grow on you over the duration of the song. There isn’t really much to say about this track other than it is really what I expected from American Football after so much time, but my expectations were exceeded, which I’m glad to admit. Give Me the Gun is another very strong aspect of this LP. Its mellow guitar melodies and soft, laid back drumming go along perfect with Kinsella’s vocals. This progressive track is strikingly similar to the sound of their debut album. The lyrics and instrumentation of this song get better as the track goes on, which seems to be a pattern within this LP, but I’m really not complaining, they really make it work. The lyrics “you are made of wet paper” is quite interesting, but it really is hard to take seriously- the fact that its left there for the instrumentation to conclude the track is just hilarious to me for some reason or another. This is definitely one of the strongest tracks of the LP.
The seventh and quite possibly my least favourite track on the album I Need a Drink (Or Two, Or Three) has, again brilliant instrumentation throughout, but the vocals were very difficult for me to enjoy. This was due to Kinsella’s voice reminding me eerily of Kermit the Frog where he adds “Or two…or three”, I wish I could look past that, but to me it is just so out of place on this track and the entire album. I can see where they what they were going for, but Christ it was so strange for me to hear. I must say though, as the track progresses (yet again), it regains itself and (almost) lets me forget what had just happened previously…I really hope I’m not the only one who felt this, otherwise just ignore what I had just said entirely.
The ninth and final track of the album Everyone is Dressed Up is another track that is very similar to American Football’s debut album. All aspects of this song really seem to be homage to their younger selves in writing their first album. The guitar, trumpet, drums and even vocals are possibly the most similar to their debut than on any other track of the LP. I think I enjoy this track in particular due to this reason. This is definitely a great conclusion to a very impressive comeback album, and I think I would label it as one of the strongest on the album.
American Football as an album really didn’t disappoint me; maybe this was due to my constant worry prior to finally hearing it. I really wasn’t let down, and actually I quite enjoyed listening to it. Though, I must admit, on my first listen I had strong mixed emotions towards it, but it took me around two or three listens to finally make good judgement on it, and that is a very positive for sure. I know I shouldn’t compare it to their debut, but I can’t help it; this album was really great, but in comparison to their first self-titled album, it really isn’t on the same level- but this is a very biased viewpoint. Maybe as time goes by, I’ll begin to look at both albums under the same light, though I’m not sure that’ll ever happen.