In 2016, American Football released their second self-titled album, or ‘LP2’ after a 17-year gap between their now iconic debut. The story of the band’s initial existence and swift break-up as the first record was released is now the stuff of 90’s emo legend and a huge factor in why the band were so well-received when they returned. While the band’s sound definitely grew on LP2, with some inspiration coming from singer Mike Kinsellas time as a solo artist, there was an element listening to the record of a band trying to capture the energy of their debut, which is where it often fell flat.
Now the band due to release their third self-titled album on the 22nd March, and on the release of its artwork and singles, it seemed the band were heading for a revamp somewhat of their sound. Firstly, this is the first not to feature the house featured on the last two records, in the band’s hometown of Illinois. Instead, we are met with foggy borderlands. It’s an image that sits well with the first single ‘Silhouettes’. It’s a song that is equally foggy, meandering in a way only a song from this band could, with beautifully delicate guitar lines noodling in and out through layers of atmosphere and Kinsella’s vocals.
In the context of the album, however, the format wears a thin quickly. LP3 takes a new direction than its predecessors, with a heavier emphasis on a more atmospheric, shoegaze-esque approach. However, the meat and gravy of the songs on LP3 remain classic American Football, which isn’t a bad thing but at this stage, it’s nothing new.
The longer tracks, the aforementioned ‘Silhouettes’ and the song ‘Doom in Full Bloom’ both passing the seven-minute mark provide little in the way of innovation or experimentation to justify their length on the album, in a way that wasn’t so obvious listening to ‘Silhouettes’ as a stand-alone single. Lyrically, Kinsella’s shows little in the way of new ground, with the exception of the second single ‘Uncomfortably Numb’, featuring Paramore’s Hayley Williams, provides an interesting insight in the difficulties of raising a son and is probably the best song on the record.
The other features on the album, from Land of Talk vocalist, Elizabeth Powell, to Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell bring interesting moments. Goswell’s contributions, while minimal do add something to the track “I Can’t Feel You”. Notable on this track, which is a highlight on the record as a whole, is the quality of the drumming. On every track, the drumming of Steve Lamos is tight, expressive and carries each song to its end, sitting perfectly with the bass guitar to give even the weakest moments on the album a punchy edge.
While LP3 does bring a change of sound for the band, their foundational style remains and it’s a style that almost boxes the band into repetition and lacklustre songwriting. The band’s performances are super tight, but with song-writing providing little in the way of memorability, American Football have missed the goalposts on LP3.