Local Review: American Humor – Inflation
Local Music Reviews
American Humor = The Gaslight Anthem + Blink-182 x American Pie
Inflation is a pure pop-punk release—11 tracks of open chords, distorted guitars and anthemic choruses. One of its charms is that it’s earnest, with a genuine appreciation for the form rather than a cynical grab at nostalgia. That is not to say that the album is without cynicism; the songs ooze a jolly sort of meanness. American Humor wipes away much of the schoolboy-like excitement of typical pop-punk and replaces it with jaded resentment. While the musicianship is tight, the content is as chaotic as it gets, with songs such as “PWR/PBR” talking about shooting raccoons and voyeuristic sex fantasies. Drinking, doing drugs and abusing one’s body are repeating motifs on Inflation.
The lyrics tend to weigh down the album, and at times it feels like the band is selling themselves short artistically. Tracks like “Fight or Flight,” with its catchy and relatable chorus of “I don’t know the feeling of being comfortable,” expresses a satisfying, emo-flavored realness that becomes less impactful when the verses resume and the band slant-rhymes “amphetamines” with “LSD.”
“Bad Omen” is a stand out, delving into less conventional song dynamics in a way that really pays off. While the first half is a catchy, anti-establishment bop, the second half of the track switches time signatures, taking on a more post-hardcore, math-rock sound. It’s sly, well-executed and gratifying, but causes the next track, “Our Lord and Savior Cholula,” to fall flat in comparison. The song opens up with the lyrics “I’m on drugs, making enchiladas,” which feels like a step down from the creativity displayed just a minute or two earlier. The song’s references to seagulls and standing at the pulpit provide a smile-inducing wink and nod to SLC.
The album’s closer, “A Sweet Reminder,” feels like a recognition and unpacking of some of the more genuine issues underlying every unhealthy act mentioned in the past nine tracks. The usual instruments are accompanied by a plaintive, dry-sounding violin and snare-heavy rhythm that feels like a bittersweet country song. It is a swell, if not surprising, wrap-up to the album, but it too suffers from some lyrical shortcomings. In a progression before the final chorus, the melody gradually develops and builds for a few bars, with the violin playing sweetly over the chugging guitar. When it all coalesces into the chorus of “It sucks being human,” the bubble bursts and the subtlety of the previous part gives in to the bluntness that the rest of the album struggles with.
While pop-punk isn’t known for its maturity, a lot of great bands have written music that’s surprisingly meaningful and nuanced without becoming too self-serious (such as Enema of the State, when Dysentary Gary leads into the heartbreaking classic “Adam’s Song”). There are glints of more serious lyricism on tracks such as “Insatiable” and “Sins of the Flesh,” and the album itself sounds deliberate and tight, as though it’s just waiting on the final component to be ironed out. The album lays a solid groundwork for a future American Humor album where the more heavy-hitting and emotional moments are better expressed. –Tín Rodriguez