Review Summary: Destroy Their Future is an album that isn't all it could be, mainly because of the production and tepid energy, but at its core there is not a bad song on the album.
American Steel - Destroy Their Future
After reviewing American Steel's previous LP Jagged Thoughts
last August with a few little gripes about it not being rough or energetic enough compared to their previous works, and a few inevitable comparisons to Against Me!, the album did a strange thing to me. It taught me I was wrong to be such a nitpicker. Jagged Thoughts
is a collective of wonderful, memorable songs. The energy and rawness is diminished but at the end of the day, songwriting wins all, and that album had some killer songwriting. So, when Destroy Their Future
, American Steel's reunion album, their first in 6 years, appeared in my mailbox two weeks ago tried to get over myself as quickly as possible and listen to the songs as just that: songs.
I'm glad I did, because otherwise this review would just be a collection of grumpy gripes about the production and still reduced energy. Now it's just going to be a paragraph. To start, let's shake a stick at the production. I think it was done in house by the band members (at least that's what allmusic indicated). My promo sheet didn't give any pertinent info either. So, to whom it may concern, this production is the opposite of what enables these kinds of songs to succeed. American Steel are writing music that needs to have its griminess and distortion at the forefront instead of smoothed over like a radio single. In general, this problem affects the band as a whole by making everything a little too overproduced. Whereas on Jagged Thoughts
there were sparse, reverby intros and verses ("Rainy Day") and great distorted guitar tones ("Turn It Out"), here there are only slicked over replicas. The vocals seem most subject to this issue, sounding like a sedated Robert Smith of The Cure in the first verse of "Dead and Gone" and like Davey Havok of AFI on the first verse of "More Like a Dream." It's just weird and unbecoming of their style. The only moment I can think of that is better off because of the production is the end of "Smile on Me" who's echoey guitar slides are beautiful. My second gripe, the diminished energy, is like beating a dead horse. American Steel is no longer the young East Bay punk band they once were. Their style has changed, so to get caught up on their less rugged sounding aesthetic would be gauche. Let's just say these East Bay Punx are very mysterious in changing their sound...
Now for the positives: the songs. Destroy Their Future
is a collection of gems and growers. Upon first listen, you'll be smacked in the face by the immediate catchiness of "Songs of Avarice," "Love and Logic," and "Old Croy Road" songs that pick up where American Steel left off with Jagged Thoughts
. They are fast, fun, and somewhat more intelligent than those of your average punk band. Upon repeat listens you'll start to appreciate subtler beauties on the album, like the aforementioned sliding guitar on "Smile on Me," the amazing vocal performance on "To the Sea," and the apt use of accordion on "Hurtin.'" This album, while not some lofty concept album with all of the songs tied together by abstract themes and musical motives, seems to be a perfect song album; it's just a collection of killer tracks. Hell, I may even start warming up to the worst tracks on the album "Mean Streak" and "Or, Don't You Remember"" who both suffer from being trying to hard and being cutesy as a result. As a final gush about the virtues of these songs, I'd like to talk about the vocals and poignant lyrics, which seem to still be great (excluding the goofy production issues making the vocals sound like those of faux-goth icons). Primary vocalist, Rory Henderson, has a perfectly gruff and emotive voice, and he rarely holds back. The intro to "Smile on Me" is a perfect example; his vocals are rough but at the same time oddly moving. The vocals are earnest without being cheesy. They could be singing about heartbreak and sound more legitimate due to the maturity of the voice. The lyrics also tap into this slightly more mature vein. Even when the lyrics are the most youthful or juvenile, "I lost my dad when I was ten years old / Got his record collection and stereo console / Learned every word / Sung every line," they still maintain a knowing tone.
Destroy Their Future
is an album that isn't all it could be, mainly because of the production and tepid energy, but at its core there is not a bad song on the album. Some are true gems. I know I'm willing to get over these shortcomings to be able to enjoy the huge pros.
Recommended Tracks: To the Sea, Smile on Me, Sons of Avarice, Old Croy Road