Pure American Gum glistens with the heat and sheen of desert summer evenings. American Culture offers a sound that is an unrelenting blend of dream-pop and punk rock. Earnest lyrics about anything from Coca-Cola, Cherry Crush, and unrequited love; to social anxiety, alienation, Sonic Youth and the Pixies – American Culture offers a completely different side of Americana that won’t be found on any Bruce Springsteen record.
“My Teeth Are Sharp” opens with a melodic, fuzzy call-back guitar riff that The Cure would be immensely proud of, while tracks like “Social Anxiety” and “I Like American Culture” form the backbone of Pure American Gum. On the one hand, “Social Anxiety” is about being too paralyzed by fear to talk to a crush, while “I Like American Culture” begins with Pixie-like bass drubbing before launching straight into the chorus of “I like American Culture” sung over and over again as both a reaffirmation and reassurance, celebrating both the glitz and the grit of culture.
American Culture call themselves “PUNK PEOPLE”. Their punk attitude is paradoxically expressed in music that’s chock-full of material references, whether those be Coke or cars. Yet under all this material glamour is a feeling of anxiety, alienation and suburban boredom. American Culture’s music is at once a celebration and lamentation of material culture. The music sounds uneasy and unsatisfied with their slice of Americana. In a culture so full of material distraction, human relationship can be pushed to the backburner. Desire becomes a common theme to this collection of tracks: “I just wanna be part of your world” is sung earnestly in “Actual Alien”, while the need to be devoted to someone entirely is expressed in “I Wanna Be Your Animal”.
Adding to the sense of unease and dissatisfaction is the abruptness of the tracks on Pure American Gum. “I Wanna Be Your Animal” ends mid-verse. Modern psyches are far too distracted to do anything for any length of time, even wanting to be someone’s animal. Devotion only runs for so long as we are committed to it, and in American Culture’s universe that sure doesn’t last long.
The punk influence and abrupt length ultimately work in American Culture’s favour. It’s music for summer nights as much as it is for rocking a pair of headphones alone in your room. Pure American Gum is an adrenaline shot of familiar images and sounds cast up in a new, interesting way. It may not last long, but it’s as refreshing as that first sip of Coca-cola or Cherry Crush on a hot summer evening.