After a record achieves cult classic status long after its release, their creators often struggle to recapture this accidental magic that initially made them so compelling. No group better exemplifies this problem than American Football. Achieving cult status with their genre-defining self-titled midwestern emo album, highlighted by the high school breakup single ‘Never Meant,’ the Mike Kinsella-backed group tried extremely hard to recapture this magic on their almost twenty year delayed followup: LP2. Unfortunately, this effort felt far too much like a washed-up band trying to bastardise it’s glory days.
Naturally, this led to a low sense of excitement regarding LP3. Why would this sense of desperation end up producing art in any way as compelling as a debut that essentially acted as a beacon for misguided teenagers? Subsequently, Kinsella’s approach was to age with his listener base rather than to try and relive a time long gone. The result is the vastly matured and immensely compelling LP3.
Typically it’s difficult for groups so contingent on the angst of their listeners to grow up alongside them. The self-awareness of the band’s latest record in acknowledging this seems to be its crucial strength. No longer are we treated to the obviously compelling, yet fundamentally frat-boy emotions found within their debut. Rather, aside from a lyrical emphasis on growth as opposed to LP1’s far more superficial loss, Kinsella’s use of guest features ultimately crafts a far more mature soundscape. The stellar ‘Uncomfortably Numb’ perfectly encapsulates this. A teenage angst icon of a similar status in Hayley Williams is utilised to create this immensely compelling dichotomy between along-lost youth and an equivalently tragic present. By no longer forcing the listener to bask in their nostalgia, American Football finally become relatable again.
This ability for the listener to connect with a band they likely they had outgrown is easily the most compelling aspect of this record. It is near-impossible for a band so iconic to a whole generation to recapture this adoration a generation had for them. American Football’s acknowledgement of this not only allows them to turn these lost fans back on side but arguably makes them more important than ever to a legion they thought were gone forever.
Image: Andy Witchger via Wikimedia Commons