Review Summary: Trying to play intelligent and diversified punk rock is to be commended by itself. American High don't only make an attempt at it, but got quite close to making an excellent album
One of the delights of listening to modern music, rock, in particular, is discovering something new, either as a sound or as an artist (preferably both). In these days of an overabundance of information, that can be a double-edged sword - on one hand, you get an overflow of constant information, on the other, some things just may pass you by. That is why one of my current passions is roaming the Bandcamp and Soundcloud (Last.fm, whatever) for something I’m completely unfamiliar with. As could be expected, the chips quite evenly fall on the side where the music should, to put it mildly, have the label “for private ears only” and on the other the one where your ears perk up with surprise, positive surprise.
Now, when I came across American High and their album Bones In the Attic, Flowers in the Basement, I had my initial doubts. The name American High “promised” yet another punkish Green Day copy. Actually, the band was described elsewhere as exactly a punk band sounding a lot like Green Day, only acoustic. But then that acoustic label and the album’s title promised a bit more that would be worth investigating. So I did.
And I’m glad I did. But let's deal with that punk label first. What, or should I say which bands or artists (don’t know if hardcore fans would agree with the last term) should be considered punk" Those that stick to a strict formula defined almost forty years ago with two cord progression, shout-spitting vocals and in general “who cares about musicianship, we’re in a pose”, or something that Joe Strummer and The Clash set to do right at the start -that punk should be a state of mind that incorporates any music style that fits"
Judging by their album American High (ok, the name can have a double meaning) want to adhere to the latter line of thinking. Their music has a variety, and they do bring in a lot of influences, including those from all the way back from the Sixties, but give the music a sense of energy. With all the names that are being mentioned as their influences, from The Beatles to Tom Petty (including Green Day, of course - nothing bad in that, after all), I’d mention two that weren’t and mostly for the energy and attempt to infuse something new in tired formulas - and that is Jeff Tweedy’s and Jay Farrar’s early incarnation as Uncle Tupelo and Elliot Smith’s first band Heatmiser. To cap it off, the guys are showing great promise in the lyrics department too.
Do you hear all those mentioned influences" Yes, you do, but then so what of not only the intentions are good but the music is well executed and felt" And American High have all that on their album. But are they up to all those heady heights were their inspirations are" Well, not fully there yet, but judging on this outing, they are getting there. For more evidence try Bert’s Never Gone, I Can’t Change or Sensei. We’ll be hearing more from these guys.