American Werewolf Academy – Out Of Place All The Time – album review (Damnably)
CD / DL
Dallas, Texas powerpop with a wistful Americana edge.
I don’t know what the hell is going on this year end, but this last month I’ve had several candidates for album of the year appear through the mail, completely unsolicited and mostly names new to me. Maybe I should get out less…
Continuing the trend of “What the fuck is this and why didn’t I know about it before now?” are Texan trio American Werewolf Academy. I have to admit, when I read the name I immediately assumed Eels-style-angular-geek-rock-trying-too-hard-ness. How wrong could I be.
If you can try and imagine The Jayhawks in their pomp playing Cheap Trick songs you might be close, but that does American Werewolf Academy a complete disservice; this is all loose-limbed, honey-harmonied powerpop. That’s powerpop as in The Replacements, Big Star, The Cars, The Ramones. Not big-short-wearing contemporary pretenders, folks.
The music speaks loudly and gleefully for itself, too. Apparently, AWA had a previous life as artsy funsters; Out Of Place is an altogether more mature album than that and there’s a sense of weariness and mortality woven through the clever chord changes and ringing guitars. Aaron Thedford, lead singer and guitarist, brings a snap and snarl to these seemingly innocent pop nuggets. The ingenuity of the songwriting shines; Happy Anniversary, Your Majesty is little over a minute long before cornering off into the fast(er) lane of Miserable Living. These guys have a real clued-up way with a tune and the seat-of-the-pants pop thrill is layered over some rather clever songwriting smarts.
Freebeard continues the ride; muscular,classic rock chops and sun-dappled joy, its simple heroics and garage rock swagger are timeless. I’ve no idea what he’s singing about, but it’s possible neither does Thedford – not that that stopped Louie Louie from becoming a classic.
Edge Of The Bed is the single from the album and is a downbeat, gentle giant. Gorgeous harmonies and neat fiddle flourishes recall Nadine or Whiskeytown and Thedford’s vicious vocal lays waste the bad relationships and decisions therein.
The guitar in the song is Gary Louris all over and that’s no bad thing; punk rock meets country rock in a bar fight amidst the sawdust, blood and beer.
You Vipers Will Kill Me is a clanging, strutting rocker with a desert rock heart; the albums recording was mostly analogue and it suits this type of material so well with it’s valve amp warmth and Tony Harper’s in-your-face drums. It’s memorable too. It will set up home with you and refuse to leave.
It’s a quite novel concept in this single-heavy albums day and age, but Out Of Place doesn’t have a bad track on it; how these guys have managed to stay off my radar I don’t quite know. I think I may need to have a word with myself.
For more details about this release or to buy the album go here.
All words by Joe Whyte. More writing by Joe on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive.