The Future of Indie Rock is in Good Hands
by Jeremy Griffin
A review of The American Tragedy’s The Flame.
I owe the fellas in the American Tragedy an apology: this review is way overdue. And I’ll spare you the reasons for my lateness; suffice it to say, I’m a tool. It wouldn’t be such a big deal, I guess, if it were some self-absorbed dickhead capital M-usician we’re talking about here (see: Weston’s super-awkward interview with Mike Doughty), but that’s not the case. In fact, TAT comprises four of the friendliest, most down-to-earth musicians I’ve ever met, though this doesn’t seem to interfere with their ability to combine brutal, pounding guitar riffs with elegant melodies, the culmination of which is some of the most interesting rock music in the indie world today. And nowhere is this more apparent than their latest release The Flame.
At just four songs, The Flame is the first in a series of EPs that TAT has planned as a follow-up to 2005′s Welcome to the Show, which solidified their reputation not only in terms of their fantastic songwriting skills, but also for their energetic live shows. However, there is a rawness to The Flame that, while uncharacteristic of their work up until now, seems oddly fitting considering the band’s attitude toward the record industry, an attitude made very clear in their music. “We didn’t want to overproduce it,” says frontman Adam Dale, whose voice combines mainstream clarity with punk swagger and just a touch of Motown. “A lot of the mistakes we made, we just left in there. We wanted it to be real. We figured, if it was good enough for Zeppelin, then it was definitely good enough for us.”
This isn’t to say that TAT has gotten any less conscientious about their recording, but rather that they recognize that the spirit of their music–and perhaps all rock music–lies in its unrefinement, that a certain degree of roughness is not only preferable but necessary. This is especially clear on tracks like “Blood on the Stage,” a rowdy, vaguely 80s-style celebration of rock’n'roll: Forgive me Jesus, for I have sinner/ I’m listenin to rock’n'roll records again/I like my Sabbath Black and my Lizzy Thin. “Everyone Will Finish” and “There Are Some Things We Weren’t Meant to See” are songs built around riffs that would be perfectly fitting on Sabbath’s self-titled debut. Then you’ve got the eponymous track “The Flame,” an outlier in terms of its relative gentility and an excellent example of the band’s ability to meld raucous and melodic textures. All this, combined with Dale’s distinctive voice and his penchant for thought-provoking lyrics, altogether adds up to a pretty damn great EP, no doubt the first of several.