Wednesday, October 17, 2012

American Football - S/T

Release Date: September 14, 1999

★★★★★ Tracks:
Never Meant

When Cap’n Jazz broke up each member began a new project that furthered the spread of 2nd-wave emo. Of those spin-offs, the instrumental outfit Ghosts + Vodka was created by guitarists Victor Villareal and Sam Zurick, The Promise Ring, created by Davey von Bohlen was the poppiest and most successful of the spin-offs, Joan of Arc, created by Cap’n Jazz frontman Tim Kinsella, the most pretentious and avant-garde, and American Football, created by drummer and brother to Tim, Mike Kinsella, has the sound that most closely resembles late 90’s/early 00’s emo. Not quite as eccentric, Mike enjoys and excels at writing luscious guitar melodies (further evidenced by his later solo spin-off project, Owen), and as the drummer in Cap’n Jazz, Mike shows how multi-instrumentally talented he is by combining those intricate guitars with math rock time signatures. This might sound a bit pretentious, but I’d say good musicians simply enjoy the challenge of writing complex material. And the hooks are still hooks. The opening track on American Football’s self-titled album is its best; “Never Meant” builds upon some technically savvy hammer-on and finger-slide electric guitar picking with oddly syncopated drums and Mike’s signature soft tenor, drummer Steve Lamos speeds it to half-time for good measure halfway through. Through the opening four minutes of the album you can hear the makings of 100s of emo bands to follow. “The Summer Ends” follows with a long instrumental interlude before Mike comes back in with youthful love and the insecurities that always come with it. Then comes “Honestly?” with the album’s best lyrics:

Honestly I can’t remember
All my teenage feelings
And the meanings
They seemed too see-through
To be true

A long instrumental passage follows after the second verse, closing out the other strong highlight on American Football. Kinsella and Co. were highly influential to a lot of music most people never listened to, this is true. But other than the two highlights listed above, I rarely find myself revisiting American Football’s only full-length; I’m a pop fan by nature, and my inclination keeps me fully entrenched in Davey von Bohlen’s camp. His interpretation of this underappreciated genre with The Promise Ring is the paragon of the Cap’n Jazz spin-offs, Cap’n Jazz included, actually.

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