Band of the Week: American Football

Genre: Emo, rock, sweater-core

For Fans of: Snowing, Glocca Mora, Joyce Manor, Yo La Tengo

Recommended Tracks: “Never Meant” “Stay Home” “The One With The Tambourine”

I would like to take the opportunity to wish the sun a fond farewell. Goodbye summer, it was fun while it lasted.

It’s that time of year again, and from where I’m sitting, it seems blue skies and cool breezes have vanished into the rain and cold of fall, not to return until our six months of gray are up.

I love the fall; it’s my favorite season. I love the sweaters, I love the atmosphere of an October night, I love the feeling of dread that comes with an impending harsh winter and better yet, I love the music that suddenly becomes relevant when the weather takes a turn for the chilly. You know the kind, music that just feels cold, feels frozen, and above all, feels like the comfort of an Autumn sweater. One of my favorite bands to play around this time is the short lived, but important nonetheless, emo trio, American Football.

Formed from the ashes of equally short lived but still awesome, Cap’n Jazz, American Football was composed of emo legend, vocalist/guitarist Mike Kinsella, drummer Steve Lamos and fellow guitarist Steve Holmes. As stated above, American Football was with us only briefly, recording only a self-titled EP and a self-titled debut LP before mutually calling it quits at the turn of the century.

Now, American Football is the kind of band that I can only listen to around this time of year. As soon as the month of October passes, these guys typically go back up on the shelf never to be played again for the next 12 months. It’s not an insult; it's just a representative of the sound that these guys went for. American Football is a sad band, a mournful band, and one that craves love and attention as its busy pissing and moaning about its ex-girlfriend. Oh yes, American Football is an emo band all right. Emo is a sub-genre that has always sat uncomfortably with me. I always felt that if done right, these bands had the rare ability to deliver a deep emotional catharsis while still being heart-on-the-sleeve and uncomfortably honest. If done poorly, emo ran the risk of being some of the most irritating and whiney crap ever put to record. American Football skirts around this balance a little too close to the edge and at times can’t help but be a little too pathetic for their own good. Still American Football has a special place in my heart. Why? Well, along with Rites of Spring and Jawbreakers seminal “24 Hour Revenge Therapy,” American Football’s debut LP is one of the records that truly set the benchmark for the sound that emo was going to take – “The Shape of Emo To Come” if you will.

Many of my favorite bands from the ongoing Midwestern emo revival movement can largely be seen as the children of American Football. Bands such as Snowing, Glocca Morra, Title Fight and The World Is a Beautiful Place and I’m No Longer Afraid to Die all take from the formula established on the band’s sole LP in healthy spades. The sound that the band would become known for, a sort of soft mellow, slow groove mixed with a “twinkly” and thin guitar texture and occasional horn implement, would become the second most important building block for many of the bands that would follow in American Football’s wake.

One could make note that the band's debut LP can work as a sort of concept album. Like many of his projects, Kinsella takes the lead as the primary songwriter; unlike his other projects however, the songs that outline “American Football” deal almost exclusively with an oddly specific break up. The story that Kinsella paints up is a simple one, and one that many can recognize – girl and guy meet during the heat of the summer and cool off in the fall leading to a simple and mutual breakup. Though Kinsella does partake in the sin of indulging too much in his own sorrow, you really do get the sense that the destruction of this relationship shattered his world, and damn it, he wants to you know what that felt like. Kinsella as a songwriter is absolutely direct. It’s not poetry; it's simple, to the point, and effective. There’s a reason why people keeping finding this album. It’s kind of immortal in its ability to capture the disintegration of a relationship and its inevitable fallout. As long as there are hot, memorable summers followed by cold bitter winters, 16-year-olds will continue to flock to this album for comfort, and so long as grown men want to sing about the break ups that happened 10 years ago, they will come to American Football for inspiration.

Sean Contris is a student at Tacoma Community College. Oftentimes he comes too close to embodying the classical, and often times stereotypical, persona of a young male writer. Sean enjoys listening to a wide range of music and locking himself in his room to read sad Russian novels.


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