American Hi-Fi formed in Boston MA. in 1999. They released their eponymous debut album on Island Records in 2001, which featured the singles "Flavor Of The Weak" and "Another Perfect Day". This was their follow-up record for Island, and it was also their last (Island let them go at the end of 2003). At this time, the band was comprised of:
Stacy Jones - lead vocals, guitar
Jamie Arentzen - lead guitar
Drew Parson - bass
Brian Nolan - drums
1. The Art Of Losing (3:22)
Title track and the first single, it's a song about being a bored suburban teen that's tired of getting pushed around by people who think they're superior. It starts with a Adam and the Ants-style drum beat (sorry, but there's no escaping that fact), before the Drop-D tuned guitars kick in with a sharp, two chord riff. The chorus is killer, exploding with a "hey ho, let's go!" stolen (respectfully) from the Ramones, before letting loose with a "1-2, fuck you! don't tell me what to do!". Although Jones was a bit past teenage when he wrote this (32 years old), it still works, despite the Kim Wylde lyrics placed in the outro ( "we're the kids in America!" ). All in all, a good example of AH-F's different musical direction and a very good start to the album.
2. The Breakup Song (2:55)
A live favourite. Jones has often said that this song is "Flavor Of The Weak, Part 2.". It certainly sounds like it - it uses the chorus chords from "Flavor" (in the same order) and makes a whole new song out of 'em. Funny thing is, this is actually a pretty good song. The verses have a sorta reggae-skank feel to them (a la The Clash), and the lyrics are very detailed, if a bit comical ( "one more thing before you go: could you please give me my records back"", "you can keep the dog we bought, but you can't go near the Standard bar" ). Musical self-plagiarism, but well done.
3. Beautiful Disaster (2:36)
This one was originally set to be the title track, although when you hear it, you kinda wonder why. A very cool intro riff starts it, before the drums blast in and Jones starts spitting out his lyrics at an ex ( "break it down now, what you want anyway"" ). Good riffs and lots of energy, it also has a very punky feel to it. I like this one but the decision to not let it be the title track was a wise one.
4. Save Me (3:55)
The first ballad on the album, with Jones singing about how much he misses an ex, but puts on a front when he sees her so as not to let her know. It has soft acoustic guitars and light crooning in the verses that make way for loud guitars and all-out, emotive vocals in the choruses. I as an AH-F fan can say that Jones is capable of writing a great ballad ("Another Perfect Day", for instance). This is one that falls slightly below that, but still a decent, likeable song.
5. Nothing Left To Lose (2:56)
A great breakup song that somehow manages to name-check Pancho Villa, Jackie Chan, Dennis Rodman, and Jackson Brown, along with the use of hip-hop language to a quite funny effect ( "holla back, y'all", "check this rhyme" ). The song starts with a riff that seems to just slide in, before the fast chorus. Another fan favourite and a cool song.
6. Teenage Alien Nation (3:01)
My favorite from this album. Great intro riff, before the all-band attack kicks in. Good verses with Jones spitting bile at an ex-girlfriend ( "so what" if you don't like me I don't give a fuck" ). Kick-ass solo too, not too complex but still very cool. Definitely one of the best here.
7. Rise (3:10)
A heavy intro, before making way for verses that steal the riff from Green Day's "Jackass". Good lyrics about escaping a dead-end relationship ( "I gotta get outta here, you got the best of me" ). and nice guitar work. A decent effort but not great.
8. This Is The Sound (4:11)
Second ballad with a heavy Oasis feel to it, which is no bad thing. Heart-felt lyrics about lost love ( "if you wanted to stay, i'd have you anyday" ) and great guitars make listening to this one a very worthwhile four minutes.
9. The Gold Rush (3:38)
Cool, classic sounding riff and lyrics about some female star that Jones seems to dislike ( "she's been in magazines, what a little beauty queen" ). Another bitter song, although the Guns N' Roses reference is cool ( "she's on the movie screen acting like a rocket queen, do ya know what I mean"" ). Also another live favourite.
10. Built For Speed (2:47)
At last: a song about a girl Jones actually likes! This one reeks of Cheap Trick (again, not a bad thing) and is a steady rocker. Lyrics get a little cliched at times ( "she's my little rock n' roll queen" ), but still a fun song.
11. Happy (4:04)
The hardest song on the album. Starts with a sturdy bass riff, joined later by guitars. Lyrically similar to "The Gold Rush", but a little more bitter (if that's possible). Great solo with a subdued break in the middle with just bass and Jones muttering indistinctly (still not sure what he's saying). Kicks back in hard and ends with fast guitars and Jones screaming like hell. Great, angry song, great ending to the album.
While American Hi-Fi's first album was a band trying to find their sound, "The Art Of Losing" is the sound of a band finding their sound and having fun with it. However, they're sometimes guilty of repeating themselves. But even when they do, it's still kinda fun. Not as good as their debut, but still a worthy effort from the guys.
Apologies to those who read the original review. This one should be a little better!