After 17 years, pioneering emo band American Football is back with a brand new album. For fans of the divisive genre, it’s quite the surprise; emo bands have a long-standing tradition of breaking up as soon as things start going good for them. Their first and once only release, 1999’s self-titled effort, seemed to hit home with fans as it’s now become one of the most celebrated albums in alternative music history. Hell, even the house that graces the cover has become an emo landmark, inspiring dozens of trips a year as fans try to recreate photographer Chris Strong’s iconic shot.
Whereas LP1‘s brand of mathy emo concerning all the turmoils of being young and in love won the hearts of fans and critics alike, things have changed with LP2; granted it’s only natural after nearly two decades. However the record does begin with a nostalgic punch in the gut, as “Where Are We Now?” opens with the twinkly, intertwining guitar plucks that the band helped make so popular in the scene. When singer Mike Kinsella finally opens his mouth and the song unfolds is when we realize that it has indeed been 17 years. Kinsella’s voice is now noticeably older, more seasoned and more clear; if anything the album sounds like a more uptempo version of Owen, Kinsella’s current solo project. Nevertheless, the album still contains all the little nuances that made the first one so endearing, whether it be the melodic plucking of the beautiful “Home Is Where The Haunt Is” or the soft cooing of “My Instincts Are the Enemy.”
Kinsella may be older than he was in 1999, but some of the things that bothered him then are still present all these years later. “Desire Gets In The Way” has him lamenting a relationship that just isn’t meant to be, while “Born To Lose” and lead single “I’ve Been So Lost For So Long” are self-loathing tracks that seemingly have Kinsella in a midlife crisis. “If you find me/could you please remind me/why should I wake up tomorrow?” he sings on the latter. He continues this theme on “I Need A Drink (or Two or Three) which ends in true emo fashion. “I can’t break this bender,” Kinsella admits. “To it, I surrender.”
Some will inevitably question the need for another American Football album, especially with the band’s legacy as one of the most influential bands in indie music already established. The youthful essence that surrounded the band and their 1999 masterpiece may be gone, but Kinsella and crew do a more than admirable job explaining that being an adult can suck just as much as being a kid. And while LP1 will always be THE American Football album, fans shouldn’t hold that against LP2. They’d be doing themselves a great disservice.