Sound — 9
After a six year hiatus, the punk-rock quartet American Steel from Oakland, California has returned with their full length album Destroy Their Future on Fat Wreck Chords Records. The band has followed the 4-record pattern where their first record was a self-titled release that got their record label's attention. Their second album Rogues March showed their unbridled energy as a band that is enthusiastic about playing together. Their third disc Jagged Thoughts broke them out and built a strong fan base that wants to always remember the band this way. And now their fourth album Destroy Their Future achieves a level of excellence that shows signs of their signature line of chain-gang punk and pub rock chants along with some new growth that branches the band into other excursions like the country-punk seams of Hurtlin' which has the Southern country curls of Lucero, and the rollicking softcore punk of More Like A Dream and Speak Oh Heart peppered with a tinge of Brit-pop liken to the UK's BrakesBrakesBrakes. The punk-rock vocalese of lead singer Rory Henderson ranges from a screamo voicing on Love And Logic to a melodic Celtic resonance on Old Croy Road. The guitars played by Henderson and Ryan Massey have a symphonic expansion on Old Croy Road as bassist John Peck and drummer Scott Healy produce some steely solid rhythms that anchor the fly away chords. The rhythm section changes it's course on selections like Sons Of Avarice and Dead And Gone becoming roguish flusters that stimulate the gang vocals as the melodic swells brandish old-school punk scores that ring with the enthusiasm of The Dead Kennedys' saucy gait, Tiger Army's instinct for bulging rockabilly, and The Clash's swanky spunk. The pub rock chanting and excitement of To The Sea and Mean Streak are arousing, but with a level of finesse that refines the band's raw edges to an attractive melodic finish. The upbeat cheers and sonic brouhaha of Smile On Me have a group swagger that pulls you in like the UK's Snuff, and the rustling dynamics of Razorblades and Or Don't You Remember has a correlation to the UK's Slade providing another reflection of American Steel's connection to Brit-punk's accented flurries.
Lyrics — 9
Some lyrics have a sing-along versing like Razorblades with vocal raises and projections that entice the whole venue to sing along to the words, similarly the old Irish pub tune Show Me The Way To Go Home. Other times, the lyrics are narratives with a biographical voicing like the track Old Croy Road when Henderson muses, We lost my dad when I was ten years old/I got his record collection and stereo console/And I learned every word, sang every line/And it's the old songs and old friends that have kept me alive. Sentimentality is not an emotion that many people relate to American Steel, but these lyrics show a sentimental side to the band that they rarely reveal.
Overall Impression — 9
With a band name like American Steel, how can you not trust them? It is such a patriotic name for a band, and the music is such an amalgam of resources from American, Irish, Scottish, and British punk-rock that each of these countries would feel right at home with American Steel's songs. Their album Destroy Their Future may type-cast the band as a gang punk/pub rock group, but the album also shows other facets of this band which include country-folk inflections in their brand of rock, and a melodic-pop finish which appeals to a wider audience then Jagged Thoughts had done. Where having a melodic-pop finish may be a sell-out to some people, for American Steel it is a reflection of their maturity and their achievement in being able to play their instruments as a band even better than before.