American Culture
Hey Brother, It's Been a While


3.8
excellent

Review

by Sunnyvale STAFF
May 13th, 2024 | 3 replies


Release Date: 05/03/2024 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Don’t fear the reaper

Hailing from Denver, American Culture’s first two albums, 2015’s Pure American Gum and 2021’s For My Animals, showed some promise, but the band took a huge step forward and feel utterly transformed with their recently-released third record. Their previous LPs were compendiums of short tunes, to-the-point, no fucks given, while being deeply in debt to a host of ‘80s and ‘90s indie and punk acts - the group’s devotion to The Jesus And Mary Chain, for one thing, is quite evident. With Hey Brother, It’s Been A While, those influences are still present, but the music feels much more fleshed out, the average track length has ballooned to almost four minutes, and American Culture present the listener with a much wider sonic canvas.

This new record’s distinctiveness compared to the group’s back catalog makes a whole lot more sense once you hear its backstory - one of the most striking I’ve heard in recent memory. In short, band member Michael Stein spiraled into drug addiction last year, became homeless, and was “off the grid” with family and friends unsure if he was dead or alive for months. Among those searching for Stein was Chris Adolf - the pair share lyrical, vocal, and guitar duties in the band. Fortunately, the missing bandmate was ultimately found alive, and while recovering, began jamming again with the old lineup, providing the genesis for their third record.

These dramatic events set the table for Hey Brother, It’s Been A While. The songs here delve into both the perspective of Stein’s apathetic acceptance of his nightmarish reality and Adolf’s quest to find and reconnect with his friend - these themes are sometimes bluntly direct (AKA “Human Kindness” or “Survive”), and sometimes much more subtle, to the point that someone who didn’t know the record’s context would miss their significance. At its best, the lyricism is quite hard-hitting, standing as a striking depiction of both the dark underbelly of society and of people persevering in the face of adversity.

Sonically, this is an album which covers a lot of ground. There are hints of Strange Ranger’s oddball indie guitar heroics and the country-meets-shoegaze aesthetics of Wednesday, while plenty of the band’s older punk lineage also still shines through. Many of the songs ooze surface-level positivity, despite frequently being grim-at-heart, but there are moments of gritty ugliness as well - “Circle the Drain” comes to mind for that last category. And there are not one but two features for ambient-shoegaze extraordinaire Midwife, the latter of which, the ghostly repetition of the “we’ve been waiting for your call” lines at the end of “Break It Open” is one of the record’s most striking moments. Perhaps the most successful stretch of the album, though, is the last duo of tracks - “Lost Puppy” and “Two Coyotes”, which adopt a more jam-y sound flecked with Southern rock and Americana influences to notable success.

Hey Brother, It’s Been A While isn’t a perfect record - indeed, it sometimes feels like a bit of a mess, a full-blown circus of competing styles and vibes. But, the biggest takeaway after a few listens is that it’s a fascinating release conceived out of bleak circumstances, while also marking a creative step forward for the band. At minimum, American Culture’s latest feels like a release worthy of significant interest from the indie crowd.



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user ratings (7)
3.4
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
May 13th 2024


5917 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

Been toying with this review for about a week - finally letting it see the light of day now.



Hope it reads well - two reviews in a day, I'm sorry folks.

mkmusic1995
Contributing Reviewer
May 14th 2024


1788 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Very nice rev as always, Sunny! I was a little let down by this album honestly. It has some great tracks but there's a lot of meh tracks that drag it down a bit. I agree that the last couple tunes are probably the strongest here as well.

artificialbox
May 15th 2024


1733 Comments


Nice review. Just gave “Let It Go” a listen and this sounds like something I wouldve been obsessed with in 2016 when I was super into bands like Milk Music, Merchandise, and Total Control. Gonna check the rest of the album later.



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