American High presents unique though experiments on ‘U.N. Article 14’
With their latest album “U.N. Article 14,” the band American High claims that they approached the set of tracks in an unconventional way.
“We think songs are more interesting when they can be seen in different ways. We shun the tired INTRO-CHORUS-INTRO-CHORUS-LEAD-CHORUS-EXIT blueprint. We prefer freeform songs. We tried to make each song completely unique,” they state in their press release for the album.
That’s true in a way, even if some of the band’s best tracks on the album follow the typical song structure. They’ve got a very 90s feel to them, as more than once I kept feeling as if I were listening to tracks on Blink 182’s “Enema of the State,” or Green Day’s “Nimrod.”
You’ll also hear a bit of Ween and even a little Tom Petty on each track. Which is to say that they’re able to capture that spirit of rock music remarkably. The vocals will stand out above all else at first, but after subsequent listens you’ll start to recognize the instrumental mastery at work that make the vocals purr.
My favorite track on the album is “Fairfield, Ca.” It’s the most Tom Petty-ish of all the tracks, and it’s a feel-good track in which almost everyone can relate — the time you see or meet someone so magical but for whatever reason can’t find him or her ever again and instead they stand as the illustrious “one who got away.”
As for the album title, The U.N. Article 14 states, “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.” A very timely topic given the recent border issues between the U.S. and Mexico. It does seem a little out of place given the playful tone of the album, but, it’s never a bad idea to express your beliefs that all beings, especially those seeking asylum, deserve to be safe from unjust prosecution.
That’s really the only issue I have with this album. The tone doesn’t match the lyrical substance. Take the song that shares the title of the album, for instance. If you were asked to guess what the content of the lyrics were without really listening to what they say, you’d maybe guess that it’s about a relationship breakup, or, perhaps someone who’s in love with someone who doesn’t feel the same way about them.
But, once you hear the lyrics, you start to discover that’s not what it’s about at all. It’s actually about, as the name implies, asylum seekers being turned away at the border, essentially.
Maybe that was by design, I would think it was, in fact, but, the danger there is that you may end up confusing your listener instead of inspiring them with your message. But, seeing that all art is subjective, while some might be confused, others might be singing right along with every word and loving every minute of it.
American High presents a unique experiment at the end of the day. Can you reach people about serious subjects by dressing it up in a playful way? For example, would Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name” have been as powerful if they played it in major keys and had someone who sounded like Frank Sinatra singing its vocals? Perhaps you could, but, it’d take some getting used to at first.
“U.N. Article 14” is worth a listen, regardless if you understand the lyrics or simply enjoy the music. It’s well done, and its a fine output by talented musicians willing to experiment.