December 09, 2004

American Werewolf Academy "Devil Spit it Out"

From the manifesto on their web site to the presentation of their actual songs, Denton’s American Werewolf Academy position themselves as ambassadors of fun, unpretentious rock and roll. No less than three of the songs on their debut EP Devil, Spit It Out have the word “Rock” in the title. Almost all of the EP’s songs celebrate the redemptive power of playing and/or listening to rock music, especially while drinking and dancing with your friends. All seven songs are short blasts of adrenaline that climax with a big chorus, and run out of steam before you do. The band name-checks the Replacements, Guided by Voices and Cheap Trick as influences. They’re definitely as raucous as the first band, as concise as the second, but not quite as technically skilled as the third (though drummer Tony Harper makes a decent case for himself with a series of wickedly fast fills). Of course, their songwriting doesn’t reach the classic heights of ANY of those bands, but at their best they certainly seem capable of it.

When guitarist Aaron Thedford hollers “You load up the station wagon/I’ll bring the alcohol/Are you going to the rock show tonight?,” you’ll get caught up in his frenzy. On another song, Thedford gives you a choice: “Would you rather rock song/Or do you wanna cry all day long?” On band anthem “Welcome to the Academy,“ he sums up the redemptive power of rock and roll in three lines: “You got to dance/You got new shoes/Here’s your chance to be anything you want to be!“ However, the band’s focus on rock and the various forms of rocking out wears thin over the course of an EP; an entire full-length of these sermons could prove to be as monotonous as the whiny emo that Thedford rails against. Plus, it doesn’t help that Thedford is a terminally hoarse singer whose voice soars a full half-step above the music when he gets excited.

The ballad “Goodnight, My Pumpkin Pie,” which bisects the EP, is a nice attempt at branching out. It laments the death of fairy tales, and boasts a wonderful verse about Captain Hook entering a mid-life crisis (“Pan and Tinkerbell, you both just go straight to hell/Leave me alone with my rum”). However, the REST of the song is full of nonsensical lyrics with obvious rhymes, and several other songs have the same problem. If the band can broaden their subject matter, tighten up their lyrics, and get Hedford to calm down a little bit, it shouldn’t be too long before American Werewolf Academy start nipping at the heels of their influences.

--Sean Padilla

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