American AquariumThings Change
Rating: 7 flooring modules out of 10
“Things Change,” indeed – American Aquarium is back with their seventh full-length, and an entirely new line-up short of frontman BJ Barham. He might cycle through band members as often as the Fall’s Mark E. Smith did, but like Smith it’s Barham’s voice and vision that makes the band tick anyways…things change, but things also stay the same.
If I didn’t know the backstory, I’m not sure I would even notice the change – the last set of dudes were damn good musicians, and it these new cats seem just as good. What does seem to improve album after album is Barham’s songwriting – I’m almost always a “their earlier material was better” sort of person, but AA seem to up themselves with each successive release. I can say definitively that the second song “Crooked+Straight” is the best thing they’ve ever released, or at least my favorite – it sounds like Bruce Springsteen meets Drive-By Truckers in the best possible way. The lead slide work on the Tom Petty-referencing “When We Were Younger Men” will worm into your head and sit there for days. “I Gave Up The Drinking (Before She Gave Up On Me)” sounds like the type of seventies outlaw country (complete with organ and wah guitar) with which Merle or Waylon would be proud to be associated.
Can American Aquarium continue this upward trajectory with each successive release? Is it possible the band will eventually cycle through every active musician in the known universe? Can anything be done to get that slide guitar line out of my head? I guess we'll find out next time around.