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American Hi-fi - 2003 The Art Of Losing



AMERICAN HI-FI - THE ART OF LOSING (2003, ISLAND/DEF JAM)
Stacy Jones - vocals, guitars
Jamie Arentzen - guitars
Drew Parsons - bass
Brian Nolan - drums


Background
Like so many bands that achieve success with their first album, that all-important sophomore record comes around sooner or later. After relentlessly gigging in support of their well-received self-titled debut, American Hi-Fi finally got around to recording that crucial follow up. And although it may be titled 'The Art of Losing', it's clear that this record should be the band's equivalent of a winning ticket. American Hi-Fi burst onto the scene in 2001 with the ultra-catchy single 'Flavor of the Weak', a thumping rock anthem so infectious it appealed to rockers and teenyboppers alike. Since that moment of glory, the band wore their Heavy Metal influences on their t-shirts; sweated their way up and down the USA as well Japan and the UK on a lengthy tour schedule and achieved their success through sheer hard work. That formula has been expanded upon on 'The Art of Losing', with the majority of the songs written on the road and the band's music morphing slightly into a Cheap Trick meets Sum 41 sound. Crucially, producer Nick Launay (Silverchair, Girls Against Boys) has successfully captured the raucous, raw feel of American Hi-Fi's live shows in the studio and the result is an adrenalin-fuelled rampage through 11 energy packed rockers, that hardly pauses for breath.

The Songs
The first single from the album, the opening title track defines American Hi-Fi's slightly altered, punchy pop-punk approach perfectly. A stomping tribal drum beat underpins a razor-sharp riff and the song quickly builds into a rock anthem for the 21st Century while echoing the quartet's old-school influences of Motley Crue, Adam and the Ants and The Clash, to name but a few. A sample lyric -- 'One two/Fuck you/ Don't tell me what to do.' - belies songwriter and vocalist Stacy Jones' talent for smart, sassy and often cathartic lyrics. However, Jones neatly encapsulates his regular relationship frustrations in sure-fire second single, 'The Breakup Song'. Eerily reminiscent in places of 'Flavor of the Weak', the song nevertheless is a hit waiting to happen, with a rousing feel-good chorus to lift the spirits of even the most bleeding and broken hearted: 'It's the end/Ex-girlfriend/So long, you're gone/This is the breakup song.' Jones also cleverly references the record collection his ex should on no account to take with her on the way out - My Bloody Valentine, The Pixies and Cheap Trick. Presumably the AC/DC t-shirts are out of bounds too. Elsewhere, the hooks still remain, yet 'Beautiful Disaster', 'Gold Rush' and 'Rise' -- which ends on the kind of cathartic primal scream psychiatrists would demand good money for -- indicate how far the band has come since 'Flavour of the Weak'. This trio are raw, heavy and aggressive yet still undeniably melodic and prove that American Hi-Fi are a notch or two above the neopunk bands that they are competing for chart positions with. More familiar to long-time fans are the Cheap Trick influenced 'Built For Speed', while 'Nothing Left To Lose' is a further throwback to the 80s, pairing a J Geils Band -influenced verse with a modern pop-punk bouncing chorus. The pace only slows down for semi-ballads 'Save Me' and 'This is the Sound', both ripe for MTV and further proof, if any were needed, that American Hi-Fi have achieved their goal of being more than just one-hit wonders, or to paraphrase their previous hit, a mere flavour of the week.

The Songs
Despite heavily borrowing from what's been before, somehow American Hi-Fi make such an approach sound fresh and thoroughly modern. Yes, it's unoriginal in places, it's not innovative by anyone's standards but it's consciously so, and all the more defiant and enjoyable for it. 'The Art Of Losing' is good old-fashioned, couldn't-give a-shit slice of rock and roll, and there's not too many of those records around these days.

Track Listing:
01 The Art Of Losing
02 The Breakup Song
03 Beautiful Disaster
04 Save Me
05 Nothing Left To Lose
06 Teenage Alien Nation
07 Rise
08 This Is The Sound
09 The Gold Rush
10 Built For Speed
11 Happy

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Comments

#1 | jeffduran on September 24 2007 21:54:43
One of the few newer acts I can listen to. Great review however the only American Hi-Fi worth owning is the debut. Aside from 'Flavour Of The Week' there is 4 others that are essential. thumbs down

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