American Steel, Destroy Their Future

American Steel, Destroy Their Future

Okay, so this is a little weird. Here you’ve got a band called American Steel, but almost every damn comparison I can come up with is to bands from the now-former British Empire. Like I said, weird. Large chunks of Destroy Their Future remind me strongly of oft-overlooked pseudo-punks New Model Army, especially tracks like lead-off song “Sons of Avarice” or “Razorblades,” politically-minded punks like The Clash or Stiff Little Fingers (particularly in the raw, bright-sounding guitars), old-school pub-rockers like Cock Sparrer, and even whiskey-raw Irish folk like The Pogues.

Oh, and then there’s the nostalgic punk-folk of “Old Croy Road,” which swipes a riff almost intact from Billy Bragg’s “Help Save the Youth of America” and uses it to anchor an affecting story of a childhood lost. Not that Billy’d probably mind, though, considering the band’s political bent — the bulk of Destroy Their Future is an angry, bitter condemnation of the short-sighted stupidity of our current crop of leaders. Take “Sons of Avarice,” for example, which includes cutting lyrics about “Poor boys fighting peasants / In foreign lands,” while encouraging all those armchair generals out there who back the Iraq War insanity with “Darling, be a sacrificial lamb.”

There’s also “Love and Logic,” which posits (rightly, I think) that the only two things that can save the world from our self-destructive nature are love and logic, both of which seem to be in short supply of late. It’s a nicely hopeful moment, particularly following both “Dead and Gone,” which declares, “It won’t be long / ‘Til we’re all dead and gone / We’re singin’ everyone’s swan song,” and “Mean Streak,” which is a delightfully confrontational, unapologetic ode to good, old-fashioned misanthropy. Throughout the album, the American Steel boys seem to waver between fiery fist-pumping and bleak, fuck-it-let’s-get-shitfaced nihilism.

Which makes sense, honestly — I mean, hell, look around. In a world where cowboy mercenaries can blow away a couple of Iraqi women without provocation and still not bump Britney Spears from the headlines, I myself can sure feel the pull between “let’s change things!” and “screw it; I can’t care anymore” It’s human nature, of which there’s quite a bit on here; it’s a very “human”-sounding album, to be sure, more akin to The Explosion or Strike Anywhere than more dogmatic politically-focused bands like Anti-Flag.

Let’s take a step back for a second, though. Politics aside, the best part of Destroy Their Future is the actual sound American Steel has going. Like I noted above, there’s a distinctly “British” feel to it, along with a heroic, almost tragic sense of melody and showmanship. Simply put, American Steel is freakin’ incredible when it comes to those choruses. Tracks like “Smile On Me,” with its impassioned, almost desperate howl, or the New Romantics-esque “Speak, Oh Heart” practically demand that you sing along.

And unlike a lot of punk bands, singer/guitarist Rory Henderson can actually belt it out without getting either all emo-sensitive or sounding like he’s pretending to be The Hulk. The closest Stateside analogues, really, would be Samiam’s Jason Beebout or Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba. The Alkaline Trio resemblance extends somewhat to the music, as well, especially in that while this album was released on a punk label by a band generally deemed to be punk, it’s not really all that “punk,” y’know? It’s a heck of a lot more, well, dramatic, for lack of a better word. What Destroy Their Future is, instead, is just a truly great rock album with punk roots, akin to the Trio’s Maybe I’ll Catch Fire, Avail’s Over the James, or Jawbreaker’s Dear You.

I feel like I need to note, by the way, that Destroy is something of a return to form for American Steel as a band. After releasing a handful of 7″s and albums back in the mid-to-late ’90s, the band switched gears pretty drastically and mutated into nu-New Wavers Communique, dumping most of the punk guitars in favor of stylin’ suits and Interpol-esque keys. And I’ll admit that no, Communique aren’t/weren’t bad, by any means — I enjoy the hell out of “My Bay,” off 2004’s Poison Arrows, in particular.

That said, if Destroy Their Future is an indicator of what these guys — Henderson, guitarist Ryan Massey, bassist John Peck, and drummer Scott Healy — can do as a rock band, I hope they either shift Communique off to the side or retire it completely. An album this magnificent, varied, and self-assured surely can’t just be a one-off, right? I hope to hell not.

[American Steel is playing 10/30/07 at Walter's on Washington, with The Lawrence Arms, The Falcon, & Sundowner.]
(Fat Wreck Chords -- P.O. Box 193690, San Francisco, CA. 94119; http://www.fatwreck.com/; American Steel -- http://www.americansteel.org/)
BUY ME: Amazon

Review by . Review posted Saturday, October 13th, 2007. Filed under Reviews.

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