American Football - American Football (retro review) (Cover Artwork)

American Football

American Football (retro review) (1999)

Polyvinyl Record CO.

Not a lot of bands can gain a cult following off of one album and one album alone but that is what Illinois math-influenced emo-rockers American Football did on their debut album, American Football.

American Football formed while the members were attending college in Illinois and broke up soon after they finished recording American Football due to their courses ending. It’s hard to keep a band together while in separate cities and instead of trying to do something that would have, in all likelihood, fostered great resentment between the band members, they chose to let the album speak for itself.

American Football is a melodic, dreamy, emotional record. The lyrics reflect on the feelings associated with breaking up with a romantic partner and being distant from friends due to this time of emotional turmoil. The instrumentation works better than the lyrics throughout the album to convey the deep feelings that are being expressed. They also made use of different time signatures that add to the math-rock element and contribute to the dreamy, hazy feel of the record itself. This set them apart from their contemporaries as they were not as accessible as Jimmy Eat World and more instrumentally complex than Dashboard Confessional.

Due to American Football breaking up shortly after recording and not touring or promoting their record, it would have been easy for American Football to have fallen off the map and been lost to time, but the album survived and thrived through word-of-mouth, gaining cult status. Many people have been exposed to their music in this way, creating a feeling of community and true connection that is exclusive to people who are in the know. This underground-esque marketing lent the band an almost mythical status and breathed new meaning into their songs, with the motifs of goodbyes to those we have loved and feelings of loss that comes of those goodbyes standing not only for romantic relationships but also for a fan’s relationship to the band. American Football is loved intensely by many people and one of the reasons for this is that the band seems to find you when you need them most. There is no doubt that American Football has helped many people not only discover new music but helped them on a path to self-discovery and self-improvement through emotional catharsis.

American Football were able to breathe new life into the emo genre with their odd time signatures and carefully calculated notes. Their sound is unique and would go on to inspire many kids to pick up a pen and begin to write their own music, bringing new bands into the world. You can hear the influence of American Football in many bands coming up today such as Montreal-based emo-inspired math-rockers, Gulfer.

American Football provided a soundtrack for growing up, moving through difficult points in life, and inspiration to move forward on American Football. They didn’t destroy themselves with endless touring and self-promotion and showed everyone that sometimes the things that you don’t think will work are the things that work the best.