American Steel - Dear Friends and Gentle Hearts (Cover Artwork)

American Steel

Dear Friends and Gentle Hearts (2009)

Fat Wreck Chords

Another very, very solid release from one of punk rock's most beloved bands. As always, this new record from American Steel offers up great lyrics, original melodies, sass, soul and the usual uplifting spirit we've come to expect from these Oakland punks. Dear Friends and Gentle Hearts is an overall combination of latter-day American Steel, Crimson-era Alkaline Trio and their side project, Communique.

A dynamic full-length, it starts with a punchy intro that is reminiscent of *gulp* New Found Glory and finishes with a rather hilarious lullaby that is probably about someone we all know. And throughout the dozen songs of Dear Friends and Gentle Hearts, American Steel covers all things in between. They can still masterfully infuse dancey, Carribean influences with East Bay punk, and as opposed to their last record, Destroy Their Future, which touched on global politics and heavier issues, it's as though the band set out to make an album to play at BBQs and in hotel room parties. Hey, it works for me. I was a bit worried that guitarist Ryan Massey wasn't going to have any songs on this album until Track 6 came along. He always brings the thunder, and his dirty rock influences bring a nice change of pace once again.

Of course, there's some new things here from AmSteel too. In addition to Rory Henderson's already-undeniable melodies, it seems like they've incorporated some `60s vocal pop leanings: Pet Sounds, etc. And there's also some really well-placed parts involving some stadium rock call-and-response. It's fun stuff. Another surprising appearance on this latest album was the return of bassist John Peck on lead vocals for the song "Lights Out." It's one of the more upbeat and hard-hitting songs of the record and John's voice reminds me a bit of Jeff Pezzatti this time around. Lastly, drummer Scott Healy is stronger than ever on this latest LP and you can't help but wonder how much better Jagged Thoughts might have turned out had he been involved. Regardless, the band sounds more cohesive now than ever before and the proof is in these songs.

It's another fruitful outing for a band that continues to remain relevant in a time when that is so seemingly hard for their contemporaries and even the bands they subsequently influenced. It's also nice to have a new record that both my girlfriend and I enjoy. What I am trying to say here is...sigh...chicks really dig this shit, okay? Just sayin'. I recommend you start out with songs like "The Blood Gets Everywhere," "Where You Want to Be" and "Your Ass Ain't Laughing Now," which is an obvious retort to all those who doubted AmSteel's favorite team: the SF Giants.

Strongly recommended.