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


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