Close to ten years after they last went into the studio (and nearly 30 after they cut their first album), MX-80
are remarkably still intact (the core trio of Bruce Anderson
, Dale Sophiea
, and Rich Stim are all still onboard) and if the band's attack isn't as aggressive as it once was, We're an American Band
reveals they're as smart and adventurous as they've ever been. Guitarist Bruce Anderson's endless waves of guitar sonics, occupying a middle ground between hard rock assault and art rock texture and fragmentation, are still very much the star of this show, and his layers of lovely noise swell and shift throughout these 13 songs, often leaving the melodic backbone to the other instruments but always setting the tone for each tune. Rich Stim's dry, semi-ironic vocals sometime suggest that Steven Wright
is fronting the band, but the deadpan humor of his lyrics makes them all the more effective on songs such as "Don't Hate the French," the love-song parody "You Turned My Head Around," and "Cry Uncle," a tribute to some remarkable parental siblings. And while We're an American Band
often subtly (and in the case of "Don't Hate the French," not so subtly) deals with the travails of American life during the George W. Bush administration, there's enough dark wit and imagination in these songs to prevent the commentary from becoming strident, and the ebb and flow of the music, with electronic accents easing in and out of the banks of guitar, is compelling no matter what Stim has to say. Rich, witty, adventurous, and satisfying, We're an American Band
is a thoroughly contemporary album from a band still walking along the edges in their fourth decade of making music.