Tuesday, April 29, 2008

American Speedway "Ship of Fools"

American Speedway: Doing it Their Way

by Jesse Schmitt

On the debut CD release of American Speedway entitled “Ship of Fools,” there is a carefully studied, traditionally articulated punk ethos which may come off at first as same old hack. However if you listen a little closer to the subtle arrangements, the joyous rollicking, and the incisive lyrics, you will hear a band who is not only trying to do punk rock in the post-punk generation, but they are also positing that they do it on their own terms and with no apologies.

The album “Ship of Fools” begins with the title track. A simple looping guitar chord, heavy drums, and pretty shabby (albeit loud!) production values may at first glimpse turn off a listener. However there is an authentic mono-quality tinny sound in the record which brought back my earliest recollections of the classic LP. The opening track also has some pretty incisive lyrics “full speed ahead we plow with no remorse…where we’re going we might not survive; so cut to the end we’re not making it back alive.” Punk lyrics with a decidedly “un-punk” resonance in these times of tumult which exist in our world today; this rollicking band not only has a fair amount of angst, they also come off with a message that you need to hear to understand; are you listening?

American Speedway is a relative new kid on the block with a congealed lineage which extends only as far back as February 2007. Michael Thursby Speedway (guitar/lead vocals) Bill Angry (bass/vocals) Johny Griswold (guitar/vocals) and Chris Callahan (drums) make up this quartet who began as a high energy live act. Their ethos is simple: they play what THEY like; which is, according to them, the only “real rock and roll.”

Comparisons leap out at you from the moment you listen to their frenetic musical style. Mr. Speedway’s vocals draw sharp parallels with the likes of Bon Scott on “Highway to Hell” era AC/DC; the quickly cadenced kick drum beneath his high pitched growl you could think you were listening to “Holy Wars” era Megadeth; the simple, looping guitar riffs and naked bass lines could even lead you to believe that you were hearing some 311 outtakes. The fact is that American Speedway is able to effortlessly draw from all of these influences and create a sound which is refreshingly and honestly their own.

Just give a listen to a song like “One Foot In, One Foot Out,” and you’ll know what I’m talking about. At just under 2:40 and with a rapid fire lyric you could miss the tune before it’s gone. “Well I’m just like any other man; trying to live my life the best way I can, but something seems to veer me off that road.” It was then that I took a look at the American Speedway cover art for “Ship of Fools,” and I saw the spirit of this whole record: Four animated, pissed-off, rebellious young men at the helm of a pirate ship amidst choppy seas; doing what any four rebellious, pissed-off, joyous young men at the helm of a pirate ship amidst choppy seas would do:

Letting it all hang out.

Top down, balls to the wall, full throttle, fused with synergy, created with ability, conveyed with energy; if you are a hard-charging, balls to the wall, pissed-off, choppy-seas-sailing fan of absolute punk; check out American Speedway, the new paradigm for a lost art.

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