17 years ago in Chicago, American Football‘s released an album that would, for better or worse, dramatically change the face of emo. Instead of the shouting/screaming vocals they opted to gently sing theirs. There were no blast beats, no sudden crashes of chaotic feedback but instead gently arpeggiated guitar parts and a light dusting of trumpet. While their contemporaries – such as I Hate Myself – were sad, poetic kids who scared everybody, American Football were the kind of kids who had just enough charm to not seem douchey when whipping out their acoustic guitar at a party. Their music was gentle and had lyrics deeper than even Chicago’s deepest dish, and all of this culminated into one particular stellar debut record.
However, that was 17 years ago, and while American Football may have returned on a live stage to a large amount of fanfare by the critics who made them legends and fans who adore them, it is questionable how well they have stood the test of time. On one hand their original self titled certainly does, an eternal reference point for the modern emo band, and a truly outstanding album. On the other, the band’s members have grown tremendously as individual song writers all exploring their own, unique styles. So now that they’ve released “I’ve Been So Lost For So Long” – the first taste of their upcoming comeback album – how does it fair in comparison to everyone’s fond memories, and would they have realistically remained better as simply a fond memory?
The answer, according to most major music publications, is that they live up to, and exceed, the hype. The critical consensus claims that the song is classic American Football, featuring all the gentle tenderness in song writing that made us fall in love with them in the first place. It is brilliant, a sure sign that their return will be triumphant and powerful. However, upon listening to a song that was so widely praised, I was not only left disappointed and underwhelmed, but wondering why they had come back at all.
This is not to say that the single is necessarily bad, but for a band who put out such stellar material, it feels dry and redundant, as if they weren’t challenging themselves. Over the course of its four and a half minute long run time, the song does nothing. There are no dramatic dynamic changes. No new twists that build into beautiful melodies that were so well executed on the first record. The most exciting part of the song is when the second guitar comes in, and that moment of brief joy ends before even the first moment. Then, at 1:20, the drum part that is repeated to death enters, setting up endless repetition that plagues the song. Near the end there is hope that American Football will build into a roaring crescendo and finish with a powerful moment. Instead the song peters out without making a particularly strong impression.
Perhaps the song isn’t as completely terrible as I’ve made it out to be, but after 17 years of no new material, it certainly leaves much to be desired. While this could potentially sit nicely in the middle of the record and fill space between two more exciting tracks, it certainly doesn’t fill the role that a lead single should. American Football did so much for the current direction of emo music (which could also be an arguably bad thing), and hopefully with their new album, they come to reclaim their throne as the emo kings. However, based on this track, that does not seem entirely likely.