American Steel
Jagged Thoughts


3.5
great

Review

by Nick Greer EMERITUS
August 8th, 2007 | 13 replies | 6,619 views


Release Date: 2001 | Tracklist

Review Summary: American's Steel third LP follows in the footsteps of Against Me!'s third LP, sluggishly but admirably.

American Steel - Jagged Thoughts

With the depressing decline of Against Me!, my continued fascination with Choking Victim / Leftover Crack, and my appreciation of really bad beer, it seemed like it was about time to discover a new gutter punx band. Well, a refined gutter punx band as the previous ones are, but I needed a new rough hewn punk band to enjoy. Then a punknews.org update literally plopped one in my lap: American Steel. I immediately started streaming the crap out of their myspace page and quickly gained an appreciation for their mix of gravely, melodic punk and ska. My first LP was their 1998 self-titled release, which definitely delivered harsh vocals, sloppy musicianship, and fun songs. However, the more I read from interviews and reviews, their 2001 release, Jagged Thoughts, the last before they broke up (which considering their 2007 reformation is more aptly labeled a "hiatus"), is widely considered their best release for being somehow more intelligent, considerate, or refined. Now, at least in the case of Against Me!, tightening up the punk sound spells danger. So, it is with careful reservations that I picked up American Steel's third LP Jagged Thoughts.

As I thought, the vocals are softer and the musicianship is tighter, but unexpectedly the songs are just about as fun. This "refinement" has come about in stride with Against Me!'s development (minus the radio rock stylings); the band has streamlined their style. Where there was once a ragged punk track followed by an upbeat ska one, both brimming with energy, now there are two tracks of punk and ska blended together, with less overall energy. It's a real shame to feel a reduction of intensity on a large scale level because intensity translates to fun in the world of this type of punk. I have a few other grips, mostly around with the vocals. The singing is much less impassioned than in the past. At moments I appreciate the increased technicality ability to sing, as in songs like "Maria" that rely on slightly more complex melodic phrases, but in general, I'd much rather have the balls out yelling found on American Steel (or Reinventing Axl Rose for that matter).

Beyond this though, I cannot deny that American Steel have crafted a more thoughtful and mature album in Jagged Thoughts. The songs break out of the punk paradigm very often and with surprising dexterity. "Maria" features turnarounds that sound straight out of a Rites of Spring song. "Rainy Day" sounds like it came from the hands of Thom Yorke or Dustin Kensrue in the production and musicianship. "Shrapnel" is probably one of American Steel's top 5 tracks of all time because its precise, interesting songwriting doesn't compromise the fun associated with the catchy vocals and upstrokes. Also, all of the really charismatic aspects have only been diminished by the new style, they haven't been blotted out completely. There are still fast songs to be had with shredding vocals in "There's a New Life" and "Time Gone By" but the really fervent days of yore seem to be gone. Almost to fill in this intensity gap are the soloing on songs like "Shrapnel" and the fills of a song like "Turn It Out." They almost jam out and shred at times, which is refreshing to hear in an authentic punk song. Also, I bet nobody saw the 5/4 groove of "Wake Up Alone" coming, and I bet even fewer people saw it coming and working as well as it did, swinging chorus and all.

At the end of the day, there are great songs on this album. They don't carry the intensity of their older material, but certainly make up for it in being well-crafted, and not completely compromising their earnest beginnings. The crustiness I was looking for is long gone and in its place is something marginally less satisfactory for somebody aching for gravely sloppiness.



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3.5
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
FlawedPerfection
Emeritus
August 12th 2007



2806 Comments


Yay for bad beer!

A bit more informal than your usual review, which definitely fits for an album like this. Good work.

descendents1
August 12th 2007



702 Comments



A bit more informal than your usual review, which definitely fits for an album like this. Good work.


Yep. Informality makes this review much more enjoyable.

antihippy
August 13th 2007



696 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

tis is pretty good.

Abaddon2005
August 13th 2007



684 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This was a lot more poppy than I expected. That's not a bad thing at all though.

DFelon204409
Emeritus
August 13th 2007



3995 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Ya I got blindsided as well but it's still a sick album. Just you know, you ache for more energy.

DFelon204409
Emeritus
September 17th 2007



3995 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Man I ragged on this album a little too much. It's really good. These songs have lasting value and are really staying with me. I'll probably raise my ranking.

descendents1
September 18th 2007



702 Comments


I think you provided the stream? I've had this forever now and I barely listened to it 3 or so days ago. It's really good but it's missing the something special.

Intransit
November 18th 2007



2797 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I dunno guys. This rules alot. I think dfel was just really disappointed at first because he was craving crusty punk and got this instead. I think it's really great, though their first LP doesn't sit too well with me anymore. This Message Edited On 11.29.07

viva la revolucion
January 8th 2008



14 Comments


I don't hear the ska elements the review talks about...And i really want the first album but i can't find it anywhere.

DFelon204409
Emeritus
January 8th 2008



3995 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I have their disco. I'll make a blog post soon with the albums I think.

Intransit
February 10th 2008



2797 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Their first album is kind of a two trick pony: it's punk, and it's ska, and both are really gravelly and rough, but not much else. I personally think this is their best album, although both Rogue's March and Destroy Their Future are fantastic as well. Rogue's March is alot more punxxx than this, so if that's what you're looking for, definitely check it.

Kiran
Emeritus
January 29th 2009



5993 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Great album. The only thing that annoys me is how there are songs as good as the first three but songs as boring as "Wake Up Alone" or "Two Crooks".

tom79
January 29th 2009



3347 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Wake Up Alone isn't great, but Two Crooks is a good song I think.

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