More like Dear Friends and Gentle Farts
There's no two ways about it: American Steel is an amazing band. Starting as East Bay ragers laying down stone cold punk rock classics like "Close Enough Away" and "Every New Morning," their third album Jagged Thoughts found them openly embracing their pop, dance, folk, and Motown influences. Like all punk rock bands ahead of their time, they were disdained out of the scene by the Tru Punx who think no bands they like should be heard in coffee houses and college dorms. To them it doesn't matter that "Maria" is one of the greatest ever rock songs ever by anyone ever. Melody and Big Choruses (no matter how honest) are Tools of The Man and His Establishment, donchaknow. So Rory and Ryan basically said "fuck this, I'm out" and changed the band's name to Communique and started playing dance rock that was, once again, about five years ahead of its time. By the time Franz Ferdinand was tearing up the radio, Communique was silent, putting out a really great record to an indifferent world.
Then, for some reason, they decided to be American Steel again in 2007. Rory wrote a bunch of songs about how much he hated religion and Ryan wrote a bunch of songs about his dead dad and they married Communique's dancey pop rock to American Steel's huge-sounding uptempo guitars and put out one of the decade's best, most memorable records, Destroy Their Future. Seeing them live, it was weird hearing ballads like "Speak, Oh Heart" bump up against 15-year-old venomous rants like "Rotting," but it somehow all worked. (if you haven't seen them live, do yourself a favor and look up their touring schedule.)
They're getting ready to release their second post-"reunion" album, Dear Friends and Gentle Hearts. I've had it for about a week now, and like everyone else I definitely think it's amazing. It's not as strong as Future, but it's not exactly weak either. It's definitely way more pop. Despite its lyrical content, "Your Ass Ain't Laughing Now" definitely reaches for the Top 40 chorus and instrumental bridge, all distortion being polished off. This is not necessarily a bad thing. "Where You Want to Be" and "Lights Out" make think of what I wanted Alkaline Trio's major label debut to sound like, a.k.a. more like old Smoking Popes and less like the Killers.*
"Emergency House Party" is definitely the standout "single." A great big drunken singalong in the tradition of the Lawrence Arms or the Newton Neurotics, it features a fucking insistent treble guitar lead and a killer refrain of "it's been cold and dreary/why the fuck have you not phoned me?/grab your stuff, we're getting shitty/we only need a song to dance to/we only need a chorus to sing along to!/Pabst tall boys and all of our friends/drink and dance a sing along/everything'll be alright/(if only for tonight)." It's the best "I love you, man" song for drunk beardpunks since Banner Pilot's "Empty Your Bottles."
Oddly (and I say oddly because I appear to be the only person in the known universe who likes this song), "Meals and Entertainment" is the song on the record I like the most. As I've documented before, I'm almost always a sucker for the midtempo ballad on an otherwise uptempo album. (See also "Daydreaming" being the best song on Love Songs for the Retarded and "Nightswimming" being the best song on Automatic for the People.) It reminds me of the great weeper music Johnny Marr used to write before he thought he was Steve Miller meeting the sardonic, inudstry-aware lyrics of Paul Weller before he thought he was Oasis (or Otis Redding.) You could wake up hungover to this song and it would still be flawless.
And like the first verse of Strike Anywhere's "Ballad of Bloody Run" goes, "all the punks too drunk to stand, stand upright." This is the record to make us do just that. This is a record to make us dance and hug and chug and love. I guess you could say that makes it another winner for American Steel.
Emergency House Party - http://www.mediafire.com/?jw05gukkyzg
Your Ass Ain't Laughing Now - http://www.mediafire.com/?nmyyizgmli2
Meals and Entertainment - http://www.mediafire.com/?zaftymdzgmz
*Speaking of which, I think it's a crime for a band as wimpy and awful as they are to have a name as awesome as The Killers.