Review Summary: Shimmering power-pop in the vein of Teenage Fanclub, Army Navy's debut belongs right beside the best of the genre. The album is given extra weight by some excellent lyricism throughout.
At the end of 2009, when I was compiling my year-end list of best albums, Army Navy sat firmly at #3. Then, a strange thing happened. I found out it actually came out in August of 2008. I kept it on my list, but it now says:
3. Army Navy*
Thus making it the Barry Bonds of my record collection. I didn't have the heart to take it off of my list (along with not planning on re-doing my 2008 list) because it was on infinite repeat for the first month I had it, and was in constant rotation the whole year.
Army Navy hails from Los Angeles, and is fronted by Justin Kennedy, who played alongside Ben Gibbard in a band called "Pinwheel". Army Navy toured LA relentlessly, gaining a sizable following in California. After recording their debut album with temporary drummer Pete Thomas of the Attractions, they gained some attention after having their song "Silvery Sleds" (absent from the album) featured on the soundtrack for "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist".
The album opens strong right off of the bat, with "Dark As Days". The song starts simple enough, with some mid-tempo drumming and the strumming of an acoustic guitar, before slowly building all the way to the chorus, which features one of the better lyrics on letting go after a failed relationships I've heard in a song: "I won't ever believe it till I melt inside. I won't ever be free until I let you die. Yeah, I never believed in the power, it slips away". "My Thin Sides" is what it would sound like if The Posies and The Libertines made a baby. "Saints" is the best song the Teenage Fanclub never wrote, and from the first three bars sounds like it'd be right at home in the middle of "Bandwagonesque". Yet, while they wear their influences on their sleeves, they still have a sound that's all theirs. "Snakes of Hawaii" starts with a burst of guitar that gives way to a mid tempo strummer, before picking up the opening guitar line for the final minute of the song (the lyrics that close it are also fantastic). It's an old trick, but damn does it work well on this song. "Pocket Boys" has a beautiful chorus with lyrics about drugs and booze on the pillow. Mixing things up quite nicely are the ballad-ier songs scattered throughout the album. Kennedy's vocals add a much-needed yearning quality to the "Unresponsive Ears" and "Ignite". The gorgeous "Golden Pony" benefits from the dark undercurrent that comes through in the lyrics "You should keep your distance, I can be insistent, oh and difficult".
But the album closer is the real special song here. It's special because it makes you want to start the album over again the second it ends, and also because it's such a great idea. The final song is a cover of Maxine Nightingale's "Get Right Back (Where We Started From). What makes it a great cover is that they play it very, very seriously, but you can tell listening to it that they are having A BLAST playing it. Regardless of your feelings on the original, I dare you to not be singing along by the end of their cover. I hope this review will get some more people to check this band out, because in a just world they would be hugely popular. Just giving a band that made has made me happy so many times a few more fans would be huge to me. And if I could give a few year end lists their own asterisks, I'd be really happy.