American Culture at The Vinyl District

There’s an air of mystery surrounding American Culture; one certainty is that Pure American Gum is their debut album. The band describes its ten songs as “Music for Introverts,” and this might be true, but they also characterize a life-affirming byproduct of their namesake, specifically the sound of colluding youth banging out a batch of tunes openly celebrating relationships amorous and platonic, watching flicks, hopping in the car and tooling around, and the resonance of musical favorites. It’s out this week, in a vinyl edition limited to 300 copies, on Jigsaw Records.

Upon getting clued-in that a contemporary outfit had decided to sport the moniker American Culture, my initial thoughts hurdled back to the ‘80s and the names spied on Xeroxed flyers for all-ages hardcore matinees. Indeed, a gang wielding this handle would’ve fit perfectly onto one of those bills, the phrase scrawled in smaller print nearer to the bottom and with a tidy set assuredly covering most if not all of the following topics; conformity, religion, political nefariousness, organized sports, watching too much TV, and eating too much junk food.

Thankfully the circumstances here reveal a different reality easily discernible in the record’s title. Pure American Gum offers fresh-faced exuberance if not exactly innocence (the first cut details the sketchy borrowing of someone else’s motor vehicle), and the words to “I Like American Culture” underscore the point; rather than jingoistic, they draw comparisons to the everyday enthusiasms found in the annals of power pop as well as the impassioned ground-level grandeur of the Modern Lovers’ “Roadrunner.”

Furthermore, the sprinkling of lyrical references, to Coca-Cola, soda shops, and the imbibing of cherry crushes for only a few examples, enhance a connection to a bygone era, one that gradually ramped up post-WWII and rapidly declined with the Kennedy assassination and the escalating war in Vietnam. The global appreciation of US culture was at a rare peak, and for good reason; rock ‘n’ roll, jazz, automobiles, Hollywood, American Lit and comic books/strips were cherished worldwide.

Cultural exchange resulted of course, e.g. the Nouvelle Vague and the British Invasion, and more than a simple throwback, American Culture are exemplars of this tradition, absorbing self-professed influence (and they’re nothing if not boldly referential) from the Jesus and Mary Chain and Guided by Voices, the former a Brit act unimaginable without US rock precedent and the latter a pack of wily Ohioans that reshaped The Who and The Small Faces, two UK groups heavily impacted by American rock and R&B.

Click through for the rest of the review!

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American Culture at When You Motor Away

The music of American Culture wears its American rock credentials proudly.  Think The Replacements, The Henry Clay People, Springsteen, Velvet Underground, Dinosaur Jr and Guided By Voices.  It may not be easy to articulate the American essence, but we grew up on this stuff, bought records and went to shows.  This is our rock music — the soundtrack of our lives. And while the fusion of punk, power pop, college rock and guitar pop with a love of volume and ‘we do what we want’ attitude is never going to be destined for the pop charts of 2015, it also is always going to have a place in our hearts.  The band is either shy about, or unconcerned with, telling you anything about themselves, although my crack research assistants generously took time from filling out their March Madness Brackets to advise me that the main man here is Chris Adolf who formerly performed as Bad Weather California.  Due to said interns’ indolence, as well as their not quite admirable resilience in the face of negative job reviews, no other details will be forthcoming.

Thanks to the good folks at Jigsaw Records, we all can have a piece of American Culture.  Pure American Gumdelivers ten anthems reflecting the freedom and anxiety of American youth.  The album kicks off with the ’90s rock of “My Teeth Are Sharp”, with woozy vocals and thick guitar lines.  “Actual Alien” brings a touch of shoegaze without yielding any of the fist-pumping drive.  Fans of the late The Henry Clay People, which certainly includes me, should find great joy in “Social Anxiety”.   The next song is titled “I Like American Culture”.  For my money, it is the best song on the album, and by now I expect any rock fan will agree with the sentiment in the title.  “We Wanna Go To The Movies” sounds like it should be the best Guided by Voices song of the year, and just as you are wrapping your head around that fact the band slides into the Springsteen-like romp of “Just Driving Around”.  The following “I Wanna Be Your Animal” switches the vibe to a taut film noir soundtrack.  The upbeat piano-driven “And That’s Enough For Me” becomes one of the standout tunes of the album by virtue of making you feel so damn good.  The album ends with the adrenaline rush of “About A Friend” and the delightful “I Wasn’t Going To Fuck You Over Like That”.

This album wraps up years of American rock music with its own fresh wrapper.  I love this album and can’t stop playing it.

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American Culture at Hey Reverb

Denver band American Culture describes its music as “pop music for introverts.” It’s an apt description of the sound — and we’ll get to that in a minute — but it also describes the image the band cultivates. They request no photos during live performances, and the band photos mostly have members faces blacked out. “They don’t really want the world to know who they are personally. Just the band. Just the music,” reads the bio on the band’s management site. Could it be the band name and combined with the cultivated mystic is commentary about celebrity in American culture? Who knows.

The irony, of course, is that by trying not to draw attention to the members, personally, they create greater interest in who they actually are, what they are up to. We do know that American Culture features Chris Adolf, founder of the much lauded band Bad Weather California. At the end of the day, however, the band’s point is well taken: Who cares who is playing the music? It really is all about the music. To pull this off, the music has to be killer, and it is.

On March 10, American Culture will release its first full-length album, “Pure American Gum.” The songs rest at the intersection of pop and rock music, where catchy melodies don’t sugar coat the bite of a great guitar riff and some reverb fuzz. What’s more, this album is a tribute to the 1990s, when musicians actively rejected celebrity. More than a grunge rehash, the American Culture sound is the origin of grunge, bands like Jesus and Mary Chain and The Pixies.

Below, download “Just Driving Around.” The track, which subtly recalls Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark,” is an excellent example of how American Culture can dance the line between pop and rock, in its own introverted way. The band will also perform March 15 atRhinoceropolis.

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American Culture at KVCU Denver

In a musical landscape that thrives on genre revivalism, it’s hard for bands to sound unique while also letting their influences shine through. But for American Culture’s newest record, Pure American Gum, the group is able to be nostalgic without sounding dated. Comprised of former members of Bad Weather California and current members of Homebody, this Desert-based band draws influence heavily from indie and punk from the 80’s and 90’s but with an embrace of modern noise pop and garage rock. Though the album is incredibly fuzzy and lo-fi, the guitar progressions are almost Bruce Springsteen-esque in their ability to sound anthemic and undoubtedly American.

The song subjects on Pure American Gum deal heavily with anxiety issues and reflecting on adolescent life in the 1990’s in the Four Corners of the US. The lyrics on the album are highly idiosyncratic and range from stealing the parent’s car to friends that listen to the Pixies and drink Coca-Cola. But tracks such as “Social Anxiety” shows front man Chris Aldof wearing his issues on his sleeve, proving this album to be “Party Music For Introverts”. At the same time, the sound, imagery and subject matter is highly relatable but so detailed and personal that the album as a whole is incredibly unique and esoteric listen.

Out now on Jigsaw Records, Pure American Gum by American Culture is Radio 1190’s CD of the Month for March. For more information, check out american-culture.tumblr.com or request it at your favorite local record shop today.

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American Culture at If It Be Your Will

Remember when Jesus And Mary Chain wanted really badly to be American during their mid-period? That’s this record. This is classic “American music”. Not so much Bo Diddley and Elvis, but more like Velvet Underground and the Stooges. These ten songs celebrate activities such as driving around, listening to music, going to the movies… but they’re also about feeling anxious and out of place and not really knowing who or what you are. The songs themselves are buried in layers of fuzz and reverb, as if they were trying to mask their true identity: that is, catchy little pop hits. Sometimes they fade away too soon, sometimes they even just stop mid-sentence, but nevertheless, the ideas are already planted, and the songs remain stuck in your head. This is American Culture.

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American Culture at Bloodbuzzed

Hailing from Denver (the press release says “they live out in the desert near four corners where Arizona, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico meet“), there’s very few information on a band that, back to the press release, “don’t really want the world to know who they are, personally. Just the music. We even had a hard time tracking them down for this. The tracks and art come to us on a CDR in an envelope with no return address. We have only e-mailed with them. Never spoken. They ask (politely) for no photography during their rare live shows, usually in houses or basements”. They define themsleves as “pop music for introverts”. Which is kind of ironic, in a way, because the majority of ‘Pure American Gum‘, their first record (as far as we know), out next week on Jigsaw Records, is expansive, pure, unadultered, 90s indie-rock. Guided By Voices meeting Dinosaur Jr, Pavement on stereoids, Jesus and Mary Chain high on Coca-Cola. Pop hits.

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Black Watch at Nooga

Longevity is a luxury for most bands. But for Los Angeles outfit The Black Watch, it’s become something of a habit. They’re on their 18th release and show no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Owing a large debt to the sounds of classic jangle pop and indie rock of the early ’90s, the band concocts a catchy and reverent ode to those artists who obviously had such an impact on The Black Watch’s formative growth. There’s an emotional heft and weight, not to mention a certain pop buoyancy, that give their music a completely unique and earnest musical veneer.

On their latest record, “Sugarplum Fairy, Sugarplum Fairy,” the band (led by songwriter John Andrew Frederick) works with aspects of shoegaze, pop and classic rock in a way that few other artists are able; they mix and match different sounds to form an insular homage to their influences. There is no pretense or affectation here; “Sugarplum Fairy” is an earnest statement of identity. It’s familiar at times, though not in a way that promotes a sense of rhythmic homogeneity. It’s simply constructed of well-worn sounds that are meticulously arranged to form something new and refreshingly straightforward. It’s pop music, rock music and a handful of other genres all rolled into a frayed package of sound that will be rebounding around in your head for weeks.

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Mind Brains at Tuning Into the Obscure

This disc came to me sandwiched between two pieces of bread in a Ziploc bag. While that was certainly the most original press kit I’ve seen, the music was by far the most gripping thing in the box.  Described as a band with heavy psyche roots (many of the band members have been in psyche and pop rock bands) and a group that loves to break old electronic instruments and rebuild them to create something new, Mind Brains certainly stands as a group that lovers of psyche music should be listening to.  Even after just two tracks, I feel like they’re influenced by the likes of Conny Plank, early Kraftwerk, the Flaming Lips, Eno, the more psyche side of the Beatles, and the psyche side of Athens, GA.  Synth heavy grooves, vocal harmonies and off the wall arrangements of the two with a plethora of sounds, clips, texturing styles, and far out lyrics make this one hell of a ride.  It’s one of the most experimental nodern psyche albums I’ve heard from the US.  The world needs to take notice of this.  Awesome (4.9 out of 5)

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Fireworks at Examiner

Catchy guitar hooks, pop infused melodies vocal harmonies and a punk attitude are all on the menu as the Fireworks introduce listeners to their debut record Switch Me On. Taking listeners on a fast paced romp through their musical world, the young band from England is the real deal backing up its punk attitude with raw unfiltered guitars, overpowering rhythms and a healthy dose of good old fashioned angst.

Switch Me On opens with a bit of anger on “With My Heart”. Emma Hall unleashes a tirade towards the guy that has done her wrong creating an instant bond with anyone that has gone through this. At the end of the song Matthew Rimmel’s vocals come in over top of Hall’s giving the song an extra layer of goodness. The track “On and On” finds Hall’s vocals weaving through Rimmel’s blistering guitars and the big bold rhythms care of Isabel Alviol (bass) and Shaun Chairman (drums). Once again she is singing about a relationship gone sour but instead of letting the offending party have a piece of her mind there is regret for letting them leave without saying a word. Rimmel’s static engulfed guitars try to take control of “Runaround” but catchy melodies, well placed tambourines and Hall’s vocals fight through the fuzz keeping it from becoming a muddied mess. On the titular track “Switch Me On” the Fireworks create a sound that is sonically similar to Jesus & Mary Chain while the booming drums and Rimmel’s vocals on “Final Say” remind me of early Iggy Pop. One of the catchier tunes on the record is the jangly “Let You Know”. Opening with a Lemonheads vibe the song quickly evolves into an 80’s post punk sound as Rimmel sings about letting someone know you have feelings for them. The album ends with the bare bones somber “In the Morning”. It seems out of place with the rest of the songs on Switch Me On and at first I had the feeling it was a throw away track until I listened to it a second time and realized it is quite brilliant.

Switch Me On is a nice collection of songs from a band that refuses to fall in line with what is popular. The Firecracker’s music stands out among the throngs of bubble gum pop, electronica and pretend punk groups because they embrace the past in their music instead of thumbing their noses at it. After listening to the 13 tracks on their debut record I conclude that the Firecrackers realize good music is more about the substance than the flair. If you dig kick ass rock music then add Switch Me On to your playlists.

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Fireworks at Sound of Violence

The Fireworks : si ce nom ne vous dit rien, c’est que vous ne vous intéressez probablement pas à la noisy pop britannique. Ces vingtenaires ont en effet sorti deux premiers quarante-cinq tours ultra prometteurs, et totalement sold out, en 2013, et nous délivrent enfin leur très attendu premier opus :Switch Me On.

Résolument adepte des compositions dont la durée est huit fois sur dix proche des deux minutes et trente secondes, le quatuor démarre sur les chapeaux de roue avec le très décapant With My Heart, déjà paru en face-b du simple Runaround. Efficace, addictif et somme toute assez représentatif du son de The Fireworks, cette plage d’ouverture constitue le baromètre de ce qui va attendre l’auditeur pendant les quarante minutes que dure l’album. Dès les premières notes de Runaround, la contamination se propage un peu plus. Le son sale et saturé produit par les Londoniens et sur lequel Emma Hall pose sa voix nous replonge dans les vapeurs des débuts de The Jesus and Mary Chain et de The Wedding Present. Il est certain que ce groupe a été biberonné au mouvement C86, de Primal Scream à The Pastels en passant par le célèbre label de Bristol Sarah Records. C’est en effet tout à fait perceptible sur le Field Mice-ien Let You Know qui apporte un tant soit peu d’oxygène avant une nouvelle tempête sonore qui s’annonce des plus dévastatrices.

La folle déferlante électrique débute avec Tightrope qui nous replonge dans l’esprit des brillantes premières compositions des irlandais de Ash (Kung Fu, Jack Names The Planets…) et s’atténuera légèrement six titres plus loin avec un Back To You un peu moins assourdissant que le petit quart d’heure sacrément bruyant des morceaux énumérés précédemment. Le semblant de relâchement ne dure toutefois pas plus de trois minutes. Le réveil des quatre anglais de Brighton sera une fois encore particulièrement dynamique et furieusement inspiré, avec notamment une mention spéciale à Final Sayet sa basse métallique qui dévaste tout sur son passage. Après cet exercice bruyantissime un peu fou mais surtout inspiré, The Fireworks tirent leur révérence avec In The Morning, sorte de retour à la normale après une nuit folle digne de celle de Griffin Dunne dans le classique de Martin Scorcese After hours. Cette composition démontre d’ailleurs tout le talent que possède ce tout jeune groupe en étant capable de débrancher les amplis pendant moins de trois minutes et réussir à séduire sans aucun artifice un public déjà pleinement converti à toutes ces noisy pop songs qui constituent l’essence même deSwitch Me On.

Bien sûr, on trouvera probablement d’inévitables détracteurs à cet album qui seront uniquement capables de retenir le côté un peu répétitif des chansons structurant ce disque. Néanmoins, la fraicheur, la spontanéité et l’audace priment sur ce petit défaut qui ne gâche en rien l’orgie sonore jouissive répandue dans la plupart des treize compositions. Le printemps n’est peut-être pas encore là, maisSwitch Me On apporte un sacré rayon de soleil dans la grisaille de ce mois de février 2015.

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