Monday, August 6, 2012

Album Review: The American Scene - Safe For Now

Album Rating: B
Let's clear the air and get one thing out of the way: The American Scene's new album, Safe For Now, sounds like Transit. Heck, if Transit dropped Tim Landers for A.J. Perdomo on Listen & Forgive, The American Scene would almost be a carbon copy. But it's unfair to pigeonhole a band as emotive as the Berkeley band, even if their emo-influenced leanings sound somewhat familiar.
Guitarists Chris Purtill and Jeff Wright are a two-man wrecking crew over the course of the album, brooding through jangling vibes on "The View From Here" and wallowing "Shape Shifter" in heavy doses of youthful angst. But the band sound their best when glimmers of hope sneak into their songs. Singer Matt Vincent sounds nostalgic but optimistic on "Fifth and Natoma," only overshadowed by drummer Chris Vincent's knack for creative fills. Opener "Just Say It" is a jaunty, bright-eyed number that could sneak its way onto The Dangerous Summer's Reach For the Sun track listing without much notice.

The problems start when songs bleed into one another. "Hungry Hands" and "When You're Undone" are both downright moody and ploddingly paced, trudging through muddy verses until their choruses shine through. The band lightens things up with "Untitled," their obligatory acoustic ballad, but Vincent's voice loses its sheen as he adopts a nearly unintelligible accent that doesn't show up on any other of the tracks on Safe For Now. Some songs, he's trying to sound like Jesse Lacey. Others, he sounds more like Perdomo and Transit's Joe Boynton. But it's driving songs like "Used to You" that the emotional Vincent makes clear strides towards finding his own voice.

"Shape Shifter" is a sulky track, led by a pissed-off guitar riff and Vincent singing, "I heard you don't believe in God anymore/ I heard you fell out of love." It's as profoundly sad as some of Brand New's more heartbreaking moments, but Deja Entendu this album is not. Vincent is a powerful narrator who's not afraid to grab listeners by the heartstrings and drag them kicking and screaming through an emotional 34-minute ride. It's cathartic, and yes, there will be tears.

Yes, the onslaught is coming. The comparisons to Daytrader. To the more obvious Transit. Even, to a lesser extent, to The Starting Line. But with an album that's as angry as it is hopeful, as sad as it is powerful, The American Scene have crafted something all their own.


Track List:

1. Just Say It
2. Blood Orange
3. The View From Here
4. Fifth and Natoma
5. When You’re Undone
6. Shape Shifter
7. Used to You
8. Hungry Hands
9. Untitled
10. Safe For Now

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