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Review: “LP2” – American Football

Polyvinyl Records

Polyvinyl Records

How do you follow up a masterpiece?

Surely this question plagued the minds of the people who comprise American Football. In 1999, the group released their self-titled debut — regarded as a pioneering record in the emo genre thanks to its clean and effortlessly precise guitars as well as its off-the-wall time signatures — before slinking off into the ether after the album came out.

Well, not quite. Lead vocalist and guitarist Mike Kinsella went on to play under the name Owen and as a member of Their / They’re / There. Guitarist Steve Holmes and drummer Steve Lamos both went on to play in a litany of acts, including The Geese.

Meanwhile, the group’s legacy grew and grew into a towering figure looming large over the emo resurgence seen over the past few years. Songs such as ‘Never Meant’ and ‘The Summer Ends’ have come to be recognized as vital to emo’s current sound. American Football’s signature twinkly guitar tones have inspired so many bands that the sound now has its own obnoxious name — twinklecore. The band’s self-titled album cover has even become a meme.

So when American Football announced in 2014 that they were reforming to play a set of live shows, the hearts of emo kids everywhere fluttered. But that was nothing compared to the announcement several weeks ago that the band was releasing another self-titled album, 17 years after the first.

But how could a couple of dudes, now well into their 40s, evoke the same kind of feelings of youthful angst that they did 17 years ago? Didn’t Blink-182 try that and fail just a few months ago?

Well, fortunately, American Football didn’t even try. Instead, they reworked their feelings and angst into much more adult concerns. Like visiting with an old friend who seems familiar and different all at the same time, Kinsella & Company (now with the addition of Kinsella’s cousin, Nate, on bass) poke and prod at the existential questions of adulthood. “This will all be forgotten,” Kinsella sings on ‘Everyone Is Dressed Up,’ “to history and scholars alike.”

As a genre of youthful angst, emo usually encourages young songwriters to pour their feelings out onto the page. As elder statesmen of the genre, American Football are now asking if any of this ever meant anything at all. Following up a masterpiece is a difficult task, perhaps only second to growing up. But American Football has done both with the kind of deft skill and power that only they can provide.

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