American Football (2016)
Note: This review is written from the point of view of someone over a decade late to listening to the first American Football LP.
From the opening set of lyrics, it’s hard to not think that American Football is building metaphors that go beyond music and into their roots of existence. The band poses questions about where they should be, entirely self aware of their iconic landmark album cover “we’ve been here before but I don’t remember a lock on the door.” It’s without a doubt that American Football knows their legacy — as baffling as it may be — but their debut record is considered the top of emo sprinkled with post-rock and became a standard as the genre shifted back into this style during the third wave. They took a different approach to writing within the genre and reimagined the ideas of identifying exactly what ‘feelings’ could be in music. Yet, American Football never lived long enough to really establish anything after, having played just a few shows before disappearing. What lingered was just a house full of emotions, and for the band to reemerge 17 years later with an album is astonishing, but their explorations can be exactly the same and still feel brand new.
The beauty of American Football’s stance on the self is their constant piecing together meaning from situations, patterns of life or in general how one ended up somewhere. On “I’ve Been Lost For So Long” there is a yearning to give in, but centered around learning how to find ways to keep moving. “I can’t believe that life is happening to me,” Mike Kinsella calls out, and it’s the best way to understand that it is both a blessing and a curse to live, wrapped into clean guitars that beam with hope. The desperation is lost in the tranquil nature of the song, instead coming through as an understanding. That’s what the length of the songs offer, a time to reflect and put oneself back together, even holding a gun that could be used for something dangerous on “Give Me The Gun.”
Each song works like a portion to a painting that umbrellas over the top, with different aspects of concerning emotions being colorfully embraced by the band. “I Need A Drink (or Two, or Three)” finds the band becoming the very comfort of a nightcap, explaining the heightened adrenaline that comes from stressful days, with Kinsella remarking “I’m going to die this way” before diving into swirling, emotionally drenched guitar parts. It’s this small attention to detail that brilliantly dictates why American Football is so beloved. Their soundscape consists of intricate pieces of music that are taped perfectly and it is this care that lets their songs’ weight drag through one’s own turmoil without having to be overwhelming. It’s this nature that allows for American Football’s depth to be found. Continued listens allow for more exploration to be done, even being able to just sit and be in awe at the tone, the whim and the beauty.
It’s odd for American Football to sing the words “our love will surely be forgotten by history and scholars, forever lost in time’s currents,” on the closing track “All Dressed Up.” I think regardless, American Football will still always be considered as a historical monument, with the members of American Football living on by persisting with the highly decorative American Football (2016).