In Review: American Football’s “American Football (LP2)”
So much of western culture is entrenched in a fascination with transience. We love the tragic figure — the doomed poet, the athlete whose prime is cut short by injury. We love to inject ourselves, our own failures, into these narratives.
American Football, the underground-legend emo band from Illinois, has undoubtedly benefited from this cultural leaning. They released their first album, “American Football” somewhat quietly in 1999, and the story goes that the four members recorded it in the last four days before several moved back home after college. The band disbanded in 2000. That was that.
Except it wasn’t. Their album spread by word of mouth and became a cult staple for the budding emo genre. Today it enjoys widespread acclaim as beautifully-crafted and dreamlike, and it’s bred a mythos about the band itself.
In 2014, the group reunited for some live performances. In early 2016, they began recording the new album — also called “American Football” — to be released Friday (Oct. 21; Polyvinyl). And why, exactly? The new album is wrought with the same delicate melodrama that defined the first, but it’s so much less remarkable considering that now a 39-year-old Mike Kinsella sings: “I feel so sick. / Doctor it hurts / when I exist,” as he does on “I’ve Been So Lost For So Long.”
The saturated lyrics aren’t the main problem. This album just doesn’t work. It sounds too much like Owen, the project Kinsella’s recorded under for the last decade-plus, just with more overt math rock percussion and tinnier guitars. American Football doesn’t come anywhere near exploring new frontiers here, despite that the album cover is a picture from inside the house that was used for their first album.
Is there any artistic or musical merit to restarting the project? Probably, but those goals are dwarfed by what seems to be an overarching hope to generate hype and score some nostalgia album sales. The reunion is a good thing for the fans. The album? Not especially.
The door has already closed on American Football — quickly, mythically — and here they’re trying to open it again. But the world is not the same now, inside or out. It’s too bad they didn’t see that.
Verdict: 1 out of 5