American Steel

Dear Friends And Gentle Hearts

Written by: PP on 20/07/2009 22:02:48

"We only need a song to dance to, we only need a chorus to sing along to" sings Rory Henderson on American Steel's fifth album "Dear Friends And Gentle Hearts", summing up the album in two short sentences. The band plays laid-back, relaxed punk rock that often crosses over to pop punk/rock and mainstream rock, gathering a few handfuls of references and parallels to other bands in the process while still maintaining a sound that's wholly their own. Some of our older readers may already know this, but here's a refresher anyway before we dig in: the band went on to release three albums before disbanding in 2002, only to reunite again in 2005 and release their critically acclaimed fourth album "Destroy Their Future" in 2007.

The first half of the record is another grand display that punk rock need not always be fast to feel like a punk rock album, as each of the first five tracks relies upon a mid-pace delivery, often reminding me of a slightly more pop punkish version of The Gaslight Anthem. The songs contain heartfelt, intelligent lyrics that are still easy to sing along to, and playful, joyous guitars that fit the summer mood of the album perfectly. Other references are aplenty as well: the chorus of "Your Ass Ain't Laughing Now" is like directly from the Social Distortion playbook, while "The Blood Gets Everywhere" sounds a little like Alkaline Trio with its joyous pop sound meets dark lyricism and Matt Skiba-styled vocals. I've seen others compare them to fellow Fat Wreck act Banner Pilot as well, but you'll be the judge of that, as they're one of those bands I've always meant to check out but just never got myself together to actually do it.

The second half of the album is way different, starting from "From Here To Hell" which has some explosive choruses and generally one-up's the pace for a much faster and more punk rock oriented sound than before. The tunes still sound clearly like American Steel, but now the instrumental theme has shifted more towards sloppier bands like Dillinger Four. "Lights Out", being a good example of the latter, is the fastest track on the album and sees vocalist Rory Henderson shout his lungs out, though things are still kept nicely clean and melodic in the process, enough so for me to recall the opening line of the review and apply it generously to more or less every track on the CD. Nevertheless, I'm confused about which approach I favour more. My heart's pumping for the faster half, simply because things like d-beat and racy-but-melodic guitar lines push all the right buttons on me, but my mind's liking the first half just because there aren't enough Social D / Alk3 / The Gaslight Anthem's out there. Whichever you prefer, one matter stands strong: American Steel are criminally underrated on this side of the pond.


Download: Emergency House Party, Lights Out, Your Ass Ain't Laughing Now
For the fans of: The Gaslight Anthem, Social Distortion, Alkaline Trio, Banner Pilot, Dillinger Four
Listen: Myspace

Release date 17.07.2009
Fat Wreck Chords

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