American Band, "American Band's First Album"

I think I'll be forgiven if the first thing that came to my mind when receiving this album was Grand Funk Railroad. Such an association may seem inconsequential, but given titles like "First Time in Heels" and "Terrified," it's hard to imagine the band's name doesn't speak of the members' (perhaps twisted and cynical) attitudes and dispositions.


Blossoming Noise

All but one of the album's five songs are violent, furious swathes of ear-damaging noise. Anyone who's heard a few Japanese noise records will at least half-know what to expect: lots of white noise or static, gargling metallic explosions, feedback, and maybe some percussive licks of non-rhythm. The other half of the equation, maybe the unpredictable part, is the band's ear for texture and tension. Despite the repetitive, almost unrelenting nature of the noise, there is plenty of variation to be found in American Band's presentation. They may not employ the most original formula in the world, but their willingness to try out different approaches within the same song comes with an upshot: it's hard to know what's coming and when. The background might be Japanese at heart, but there are some distinctive American flavors at work in American Band's debut.

The most impressively unhinged music lay within the two live tracks included. The group proudly declares their name and then begins to rupture every speaker in the house, sparing no expense where volume, intensity, and sheer nastiness are concerned. These are not, however, the best representatives for the band's sound. Thankfully both "First Time in Heels" and "General's Lament" contain elements of restraint and order in a way that I think Wolf Eyes fans would appreciate. For all the indistinguishable cosmic noise American Band fling around, there are recognizable constituent elements that keep their first album from being bogged down by the same old noise attack. Whether the wail of a guitar is necessary or the quiet, brooding circularity of synthetic tones and sheet metal are deemed appropriate, the band is able to provide plenty of dynamics that keep the album moving.

Just as many great noise makers have realized, variation is often the key to drawing listeners in, especially those of us who can't stomach exclusively non-stop, rape-sound recordings. With the amount of open space available on some of these tracks, it's a bit surprising some sort of rhythmic element didn't show up at some point. A track like "Terrified" would really benefit from such a convention. The stuttering, blazing bits of noise at the end practically beg for an accompaniment, but never get one.

I'm usually drawn between hating noise albums and absolutely loving them. This one, however, has me somewhere in the middle. I'm impressed by the band in some ways, but find their creativity lacking, their identity almost non-existent. On the other hand, there are some quality cuts of sound on this album and some of it shows promise: there's always the chance this stuff will only get better. I'll probably listen to this here and there, but I'm anxiously awaiting the band's next effort because that one will decide whether or not they can step up from out of the crowd and capitalize on their willingness to explore.