There was an astonishing 17 years between American Football’s first and second albums (both called ‘American Football’) – more than the lifespan of many a band’s existence. Just three years separate the second from the third – but ‘LP3’ is light-years ahead, at least sonically and conceptually.
Heralded as math-rock pioneers and classified as Midwest emo godfathers, American Football have always found themselves sitting comfortably in different niches. ‘LP3’ stretches this further still, incorporating fuzzy shoegaze and metronomic post-rock, expanding the palette with rich and vibrant colours.
And it sounds fabulous; languid and deliberate but bursting with ideas. At times, it washes over rather than sinking soul deep, but this intangibility just adds to the drama. And, when it does become too pedestrian, the voices of Elizabeth Powell (Land of Talk) and Hayley Williams (Paramore) – on ‘Every Wave To Ever Rise’ and the excellent ‘Uncomfortably Numb’ respectively – snap things back to life.
Indeed, their participation adds much-needed textures, breaking up Mike Kinsella’s earnest delivery and serving as striking counterbalances. If the most exciting thing about American Football has traditionally been their impressive musicianship, here the vocals provide a new dimension to the tried and trusted.
Yet LP3 is not perfect either. It’s so one-paced that without these voices, or the occasional accoutrement of horns, it would be hard to differentiate between tracks. American Football can certainly world-build – and it’s a world you wouldn’t mind getting lost in – but it’s still hard to orientate when everything looks, sounds and feels similar.
That said, there’s no escaping the beauty of tracks like ‘Heir Apparent’ and ‘Doom In Full Bloom’. Given time, much of ‘LP3’ might have a similar pull – but, for now, its intangible and opaque beauty obfuscates anything deeper.