After returning from a five year hiatus in 2007, American Steel released Destroy Their Future, which may have been their strongest release yet. It showed the band with a more mature sound while still not drifting too far off from their roots. The follow-up record, Dear Friends and Gentle Hearts is a little different. Here we see the Bay Area punks going in a more poppy direction, a bit more than some people might be comfortable with.
Dear Friends and Gentle Hearts is all very confusing on first listen. On the opening track, "Emergency House Party" we hear vocalist Rory Henderson actually singing clearly instead of his usual gruff vocals. There's also the incredibly poppy guitar line and chorus that drive the song. The equally mainstream friendly "Your Ass Ain't Laughing Now" will make you scratch your head, as well. Then there's "Tear The Place Apart" with a chorus that reads "Get your ass up on your feet now baby / Tear the place apart."
To top things off, there's also the ballad "Finally Alone," which is powered by a guitar riff using a heavy delay effect, giving it an almost shoegaze type feel. What the hell is going on here? However, when I revisited these songs I realized that they were all great.
Yes, American Steel have stepped in a really odd direction with Dear Friends and Gentle Hearts, but sometimes bands take a gamble and it pays off. Henderson's new singing style isn't what most fans were expecting but he really has a great voice and it's good that he wants to exercise it more. There's also guitarist Ryan Massey making his usual lead-vocal appearance on "From Here to Hell" and "Where You Want to Be," the former having an almost country feel in the verses and then exploding into a punk anthem in the chorus and the latter being one of the tracks more reminiscent of Destroy Their Future. Bassist John Peck also steps up to the mic on the track, "Lights Out." They also try out a few dual-vocal melodies on "Your Ass Ain't Laughing Now."
This is American Steel's most consistent record to date as all of the tracks fit together perfectly. From the dancey opener, "Emergency House Party," to the silly closing track, "Meals & Entertainment," the record never loses it's steam and keeps your attention the whole time. Despite all of these sound changes, the most noticeable quality of Dear Friends and Gentle Hearts is that the lyrics are a lot more lighthearted than Destroy Their Future. There aren't a lot of political songs present and most of the lyrics are about having fun, partying, and some personal issues. It's basically a record to blast during long summer nights and to have fun while doing so.
Change can be good for a band, and while not all fans adapt to certain changes, it can really benefit a band in the long run. American Steel may lose some fans over this record but they might gain a lot more very soon. It may not be what a lot were expecting but they really delivered on this record.
8.0 / 10
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