I have to admit, when I first came across this album, I was slightly incredulous, as you know, we Thrash Heads love our bands to be on the outer edge. While looking at the cover artwork, and from not having any previous exposure to American Speedway, I thought maybe the group would be another pop punk outfit; don't get me wrong, the cover is great, it's just that it's fun attitude devoid of any negative imagery is reminiscent of groups which are more readily embraced by the general public. Even though perhaps the group could be perceived as being more "commercially viable" than a lot of punk bands out there by those who consider themselves to be the hardest of hardcore, I always try to keep an open mind, really, when it comes to music, you have to be...you might be surprised what you end up liking.
As the old saying goes; "Never judge a book by its cover", because when I played the first track "Howl Ya Doin" I was blown away! The song had a solid rhythm obviously gained from a variety of influences; you can hear the years of dedication to punk in it, even a hint of our beloved discrust style (especially in the opening beat of "Lonely River"). Michael Thursby Speedway's singing approach on the opening track borders on old school metal, the closest I can relate it too is Ron Keel on "Speed Demon", not in speed, but rather, tone. That's probably not nearly the best analogy ever, but it's the only thing I can come up with when trying to describe his voice. The song is completely devoid of that high pitched, wannabe singing which is so prevalent among the bubble gum punk that is easily accepted by the mass media and the average music consumer; Speedway demonstrates that he is the real deal while his guitar keeps true to the hardcore rhythms of old. Lorraine "Dirty" McGurty sets her guitar ablaze with some insane string work, both of the punk and metal power chordage schools (yeah , might have to whip out the scrabble dictionary on that one). There is absolutely no doubt, she surpasses even some of the best punk guitarists out there and, I wager, could even give quite a few of them self-declared "metal masters" a run for their money too! Sooooo, this is American Speedway huh? My interests are sparked and I continue on...
The next track, "I killed Laura Palmer" continues with the same vigor as the previous track, matter of fact, the entire album pushes the energy level well up into the red.
Bill Angry's bass playing is the perfect bridge of power between the rhythm guitar's intense chords and Chris Callahan's furious drum pounding. The four play their instruments in flawless, tight unison while throwing down songs reminiscent of those fun "anthem" tunes where you just want to shout out the chorus. A later track titled "Call Me Night Rider" Is a perfect example of that.
Even though the album is of higher production than what may be the norm among the underground, they don't hold anything back, the lyrics, especially on the expletive riddled "Unreasonable Things" is certainly not Mtv safe....that's a definite plus in my book, it helps one realize these guys aren't thinking about anything else other than playing their music. And the great thing about this album, is that no matter how much I try, there is really nothing I can compare it to. I mean the speed is faster and heavier than later Circle Jerks, yet more disciplined and harmonious than Discharge and Loraine goes from Greg Ginn (sharper and cleaner though) to metal-like riffs in a heartbeat, wtf can I weigh that against? One might say they can hear the commercial stylings of a band such as Pennywise in a track like "Get Off The Cross", but again, American Speedway has far more power than that and leans more, as I eluded to previously, towards the D-beat we can't get enough of.
So, in summary, American Speedway is not on the fringe of the music scene, there are definite commercial possibilities for them, and the entire album shows me they grew up as astute disciples of both punk and metal. Now to be absolutely clear, when I speak of a meshing of those two genres, I am speaking of the influences I can hear in each track, we aren't talking Biohazard heaviness here; It's a good 'ol school style punk album, it's not pretentious and I don't think this group deserves an upturned nose from anyone. Even if you think the album may not fit your musical tastes, I highly encourage you to listen to a track or two; you too just might be blown away!
As far as I am concerned, I love it.
"Hey Brandy, Can You Fucking Hear Me Now?"
She might not right at this minute, but if American Speedway keeps putting out albums like this, she certainly will!