Very few people seem to understand, let alone communicate, the feeling of melancholy better than the brothers Kinsella. Over their careers as emo poster-boys in bands like Owen, Cap'n Jazz and Joan of Arc the two have tapped into the insecurity and desperation of the human condition more artfully than any of their contemporaries. Of all the groups that exploit the emotions of their fans, American Football, the Mike Kinsella-led trio, executed it better than any of the others. Although the group follows the Kinsella formula for success- high, wavering vocals; noodling guitar lines; decently involved bass guitar and drums- the music elicits a more visceral response than any of the other bands.
It all seems to boil down to the lyrics and the deviations from the formula that this band offers that separates American Football from the rest of the Kinsella canon. On their only full-length album, the band experiments with horn sections and the Wurlitzer pipe organ to create a blend that is uniquely theirs; their lone EP showed the first signs of experimentation, with the aptly named "The One With the Tambourine."
But what really hits home, what really makes American Football an unforgettable band rather than a footnote on a long-forgotten label, are Mike Kinsella's lyrics. The music can only communicate so much and Kinsella's cryptic, anxitety-twinged lyrics explain the atmosphere- albeit in a roundabout way. He is a master of understanding the teenage mind (himself barely out of his teens when the album was written) and pushes their buttons none-too-subtly. Songs like "The Summer Ends" and "But the Regrets are Killing Me" are particularly poignant this time of year. Kinsella may not write feel-good music, but he does provide a voice for all the teens out there who are trying so hard to find their voice. Whether they're entering high school or college, they're struggling with a relationship or they're just confused- American Football is there.
Stream both of the band's releases on their Bandcamp page.