Weekend In Review: American Football, Fairweather, Tigers Jaw
by Chad Jewett
“Untitled #1 (The One With The Trumpet) [Boombox Practice Session, 1998]”
Things have a funny way of coming back around. Obviously plenty of people gravitated toward the spiraling night-sound emo of American Football back in its first life in the late 90s, but time has turned the band’s gentle, Midwestern brush strokes into something close to a definitive document. The humble, plaintive richness of their sole full-length has become the standard by which we understand what emo means. On Friday, Polyvinyl opened shop on a pre-order for American Football’s deluxe reissue, and the site crashed. What does that tell you? Listening to a practice session rendition of “Untitled #1 (The One With The Trumpet),” a song whose official version surfaced on a self-titled EP, now feels a bit like archeology. Given the extent to which all modern emo more or less runs through American Football’s concise discography (when it isn’t running through Cap’n Jazz’s equally concise discography), this lo-fi glimpse into the process by which Mike Kinsella, Steve Lamos, and Steve Holmes slowed down the algebraic vine-tangles of Midwestern post-hardcore into poignant slow-core mood pieces is utterly fascinating. Few are the documents that actually serve as honest-to-god Big Bangs. This evolutionary peak at “Untitled #1 (The One With The Trumpet) [Boombox Practice Session, 1998]” feels like just our first new glimpse at one of them.
“Doubting the Doubtless”
While it might be a bit glib to characterize “Doubting the Doubtless” as the middle-ground between the sinewy hardcore of “Carte Blanche” and the ultra-melodic punk impressionism of “Last Words,” our third listen from Fairweather’s upcoming eponymous album strikes that sort of balance. In essence, the song stands as an athletic reminder of the fact that Fairweather share a zip code with Dischord records. “Doubting the Doutbless” rises and falls around a taut, coiling post-hardcore head-of-steam evocative of Jawbox or even Nation of Ulysses (imagine if Fairweather got super into Sam Cooke and Otis Redding for their next record – would Half Cloth quit their day jobs to write a book about the ensuing tour?). Indeed, the prickly surface of sharp, single-noted guitar jabs is reminiscent of Plays Pretty For Baby, even as the song quickly turns to the more assertive stomp that have defined Fairweather since If They Move Kill Them. Verses oscillate between Jay Littleton’s shouts and his bright, upper-register melodicism, carrying a little of Lusitania’s knack for harmony in what winds up being the most barbed, angular glimpse of Fairweather so far.
On Friday, I wrote about just how overdue The Anniversary was for a revival, for a new wave of appreciation. It’s a trick of fate that “Nervous Kids,” our first new listen in a long while from Pennsylvania fuzz-pop vets Tigers Jaw, feels like something unjustly cut from Designing For A Nervous Breakdown. Built around slabs of reedy, down-stroke-thick chords and riven by Lite-Brite keyboards (mid-career Get Up Kids are also a touchstone), “Nervous Kids” bobs along a descending progression in and out of sing-along-ready hooks (“We’re juuuuust nervous kiiiiids / We’re juuuust over it”) and verses dedicated to (what else?) anxieties of quarter-life. Add a verse-echoing splash of guitar (Rivers Cuomo would approve), and a charmingly rudimentary solo constructed to survive the shambles of live performances, and you have a song that would have fit right in on a 1999 Vagrant Records comp.