By Drew LaCouture
One of the most acclaimed emo acts and one of music’s most cultish bands return as a more mature and experienced version of themselves. Though not as remarkable as their debut from 1999, “American Football LP2”manages to succeed as a comeback album and in its truest form as a direct sequel to what many people grew up with.
From the nine-track format, to the cover art of the inside of the same house from their debut and its airy production, this is without a doubt an extension but it is not a complete retread. Musically, this album contains fewer elements of math-rock and more adult alternative, especially on “Home Is Where the Haunt Is,” with basic playing and a formulaic verse-chorus structure.
American Football has only given small tastes of the aggressive side of emo-rock, giving them more room for beautiful melodies and delicate grooves. To some fans’ surprise, they have even less bite here on LP2. This album as a whole is slower in tempo, and has a mellower demeanor like on the bittersweet opener “Where Are We Now?”
This is not a problem, for more vibrant songs like “Desire Gets in the Way” and “Born to Lose” feature American Football’s signature build-ups. Another song that long-time listeners will latch on to is “My Instincts Are the Enemy” with its intricate guitar licks and its lyrics (“I’m paralyzed, engaged in civil war / What can I do? / Either way, I lose / You lose, too”)
Impeccable lyrics like that from frontman Mike Kinsella shows that he still has the ability to make the stomach churn while making the listener smile. It is clear that this is his story and he demonstrates the same issues from their debut (romance, loss, time and doubt) but now in an adult perspective.
On the track “I Need a Drink (or Two or Three)” he sings about alcohol abuse and while the music itself seems hopeful, the lyrics make it simply tragic (“Every day, a chance to change / But the devil will find a way / As sure as the sky is grey / I’m going to die this way”). Another delightful track is the closer “Everyone Is Dressed Up” which features a trumpeter just like the closer on their debut.
It is clear that Mike’s songwriting remains enticing, but his singing certainly could have used some work. Obviously, emo music is meant to have a rawness in performance but his voice on “Give Me the Gun” along with the same guitar riff featured in every alternative song makes it a skip.
This album quite pleasantly continuous the undeniable magic that American Football had by bringing out emotions, not with screams and self-pity like some emo bands do, but with delicate song-craft, self-awareness and sentimentalism. Is every song masterful? No. Could the album have used more energy? Yes.
2016 has been a big year for bands that peaked in the last 20 years to make a comeback, and American Football’s second album is one of the few gratifying ones. While LP2 is not at the same level in terms of musicianship or elegance as their debut, it is a resurgence that is well deserved with songs that do not disappoint.
The Flyer gives “American Football LP2” an 8/10