My American Heart - Hiding Inside The Horrible Weather

Jorge Costa 10/11/2007

Rating: 3/5

Emo must be the vaguest and most generally detested genre in the world of music; one whose mere whisper in conversation inspires immediate recoiling and mass sneering among those people with snooty and elevated opinions on music. People like me. So here I was ready to rip My American Heart to shreds, composing elaborate and sophisticated smackdowns in my mind about how their little and unloved 'American Hearts' may bleed for their own self pity while mine just aches for them to get the fuck over themselves…until I pressed play. Putting it simply, while they're certainly the not the best band around, you can do a lot worse.

Hailing from San Diego, this quintet of barely 20 year-old lads wrote their debut when they were 16, went on to win 'The Ernie Ball Battle Of The Bands', got picked up by hardcore label Warcon and most recently, supported Madina Lake during their '07 UK tour. 'Hiding Inside The Horrible Weather' is their second album and, after seeing “emo” written all over their Last FM page, the most surprising thing here is how un-emo they actually are! Oh sure, it bubbles up occasionally, but only ever through Larry Soliman's lyrics. This, along with his generic vocal delivery, is what stops the album from being more than satisfactory.

It may seem almost nit-picky, but when a press release goes on about how “grown up” and “innovative” and “refined” the band is, you really do expect the opening lines to the explosive 'Boys! Grab Your Guns' to be better than “Your name is devastation/You filled us with frustration!”. Or how about the wailing delivery of “And your marvellous episodes of pain/Will soon be mine!” on lead single, 'The Shake (Awful Feeling)'? Or how about “You are the earth beneath my feeeeet/You are my gravityyyy” on the banal and appropriately titled 'Tired and Uninspired'?

Yeah, their lyrical content shows that they're largely aiming towards the 13-16 girly-teeny-bopper age bracket, but they go a long way towards making up for it with their technical veracity and firm handling of melodies. 'Boys! Grab Your Guns' is a clear example of this with its infectious chorus and soaring synths in the last minute. The title track has arguably the catchiest chorus and some of the best electric guitar work on the disc, while the fierce and punky basslines keep 'The Shake' from being completely disposable.

The best thing the record offers are the unexpected turns of rhythm which allow a surprising amount of sweetness and sincerity to wash in. This is most obvious on 'Fantasy' in which the thrashing guitars are scaled back and a gently played piano comes in as Soliman sings “We're trying to be someone”. And, unlike most “emo” bands, it doesn't sound pitiful, but hopeful. However, the best track on the album is the unexpectedly jazzy 'Dangerous'. Everything just works here, from Steven Oira's chilled-out drums to Jesse Barrera's restrained guitar work. It's also the first time in the album that Soliman's lyrics are deserving of being called “grown up”, and even slightly sexy: “…This might sound selfish/But I'd love you by yourself…Your love is just so dangerous sometimes”.

One can see this being the route that the band goes down on future records. The underused keyboard effects and hardly-there piano breaks show that this band seems to be holding back slightly, and when they decide to become more adventurous with their song structures and more sophisticated with their social commentaries, then maybe we can let them describe themselves as “refined”. And if they defy expectations, perhaps even “innovative”.