American Football’s second album, 17 years in waiting, comes with more than a few preconceptions. The band’s 1999 debut inadvertently spearheaded an emo revival that’s spawned the likes of Modern Baseball and The Hotelier, over a decade after it came out. Creating the follow-up to a record that’s become its genre’s Holy Bible can’t have been easy for Mike Kinsella and co., but ‘American Football’ manages to simultaneously stick to an existing blueprint and also work towards pushing boundaries.
The first inevitable difference comes in Kinsella’s voice - on ‘Never Meant’ and ‘The Summer Ends’, it was gravelly, youthful, bordering on vicious. Here, it feels reflective and soothing. One of the debut’s defining characteristics was a teenage angst and sorrow pulsing through every strum, still finding its way onto teenagers’ skin and school notebooks, as well as being heavily cited in the lyrics of modern day emo bands. This second record is hardly lyrically bright and fun-filled, but the anguish that’s released - most notably ‘I’ve Been Lost For So Long’’s cry of “I feel so sick, doctor it hurts that I exist” - is done so with a knowing look, from a band acutely aware of their past.
‘American Football’ meanders a lot less than its predecessor, and it’s a much more focused record, every move carried out with precision. It’s to be expected, with Kinsella and his brother Nate having made music consistently in the time since the band parted ways following their debut.
There’s only a few things ‘American Football’ could have been, and a replication of the debut was always out of the question. It’s turned out to be a record that could well hit many young hearts once more.