Full disclosure: these were the very first band that I ever saw live. They supported Sum 41 in Dublin and I’ve had a huge soft spot for them ever since. Their brand of sugary sweet pop-punk is a refreshing throwback to the early 2000’s and holds up along with the nu-metal of that epoch. I have been hoping that they’d return to their best for a while now and they may be very close to that after their new album dropped last month.
The band are back with their fifth release, “Blood & Lemonade”. It is a not standard pop-punk record instead a more mature, and very strong attempt at hard rock infused with the vocal and song structural hallmarks of American Hi-Fi.
“Armageddon Days” is a great tone setter for the guys; this is an inversion of their past openers. It is darker; like “Scar” or “Black Satellite” from their “American Hi-Fi” album. There is so much I like about this song, it’s a little scary. A punchy poppy chorus held together with a sound rhythm section and a great bridge.
That said, this will be a little shocking for fans expecting a pop-punk romp. This is a constant but heavy (for pop-punk/hard rock) trip. “Killing Time” is a perfect example with awesome twin guitars, a glorious bass sound, booming drums and melodic vocals that make this one standout.
“Golden State” is another track that sounds like the darker stuff from their first album. As a single from the album, it actually, at moments is very like good Sum 41. This is a very cool track indeed with a big chorus that goes beyond its genre. This is a song that gets better the more you listen to it. The same for its musical twin “Coma”.
This is something that can work against the album, it fights itself. “Allison” feels strange as anything other than a B-side. It’s a like a Foo Fighters song. “Portland” is however weird and misplaced. It tries to be something that doesn’t appeal to me as a fan. It is too like the overly poppy venture that was “Hearts On Parade”.
“Amnesia” is the sound, in my opinion, that this album should have all the way through. It could be in the “Art of Losing” record and that is not a bad thing. I listened to that album every night before I went to sleep when I was 14. At best, the record feels like a best of the band’s history but it makes you miss their classics two earlier releases of “American Hi-Fi” and “The Art Of Losing”.
American Hi-Fi get so close with this album; at times it is up there the best that they have to offer. And the back to the roots route was a very smart move. In short, when it was good, it was great. But I really miss the American Hi-Fi of my early teens. This is out of a sense of nostalgia and fandom. “Blood & Lemonade” is a huge step in the right direction; I hope that the next release builds on the successes of this one and becomes a true return to form.
01. Armageddon Days
02. Golden State
04. Wake Up
07. Killing Time
08. Carry The Sorrow
10. No Ordinary Life
American Hi-Fi are:
Stacy Jones – lead vocals, rhythm guitar
Jamie Arentzen – lead guitar
Drew Parsons – bass, vocals
Brian Nolan – drums, vocals
American Hi-Fi “Blood & Lemonade” is out now on Rude Records.