American Bang is a raw band with a developing sound. So it will be interesting to see what happens with their career path since the band’s producer is none other than legend/scourge Bob Rock. Sometimes lauded as a rock and roll genius, and sometimes referred to with less positive sentiment as the Man Who Ruined Metallica, Bob Rock evidently saw American Bang perform live and was instantly smitten. With a new heavy-hitting producer in tow, American Bang presented the world with their eponymous debut.
Part of the band’s modus operandi is to prove that rock and roll can flow from Nashville. I give them credit; they picked a giant hill to try and ascend first. Those outside Nashville see it as a haven for country that can boast nothing but, and those inside complain about music that isn’t country. It’s a tough sell for a would-be rock revival, especially when their singer has such a thick Southern accent that it almost sounds fake.
Rock’s production is evident in that there doesn’t seem to be any evidence of his production. Rock’s style has been always been difficult to define because he loves clear, sharp sounds which exist both independent of each other and in a unique synthesis. To that end, if the man can be given no other credit, he’s really given American Bang a chance to skip the “sounds like it was recorded in a garbage truck” phase of their career.
What Rock didn’t do that might have helped his band’s cause in conquering rock was give them a little kick in the ass. At their best in “Whiskey Walk,” the band has a nice gritty hedonistic swagger that makes them sound like the child of Tom Petty and Monster Magnet. That pompous attitude doesn’t come back for another four tracks, which is sort of a momentum killer. It was enough that as I was slogging through “She Don’t Cry No More,” I went back and listened to “Whiskey Walk” again to make sure it was the same band. Eventually, the album wends its way to “Hurts Like Hell,” which is something short of hard-hitting, but has a sweet, catchy riff and an easy rock ‘n’ roll sensibility.
The songs in the middle, from “Rewind” to “Angels” and so forth, are nice pieces of laid-back third generation rock, but for all their honesty and grandiose production (Rock does know how to stretch to the rafters,) I don’t know that there’s a lot of hard-hitting impact. The songs wash over but hardly overwhelm. There’s a sense of driving through rural fields with the windows down in the summer, taking glances from the road to watch your girlfriend sleep in the passenger seat that is pervasive from beginning to end. If that’s your speed, then American Bang might well satiate your appetite for Heartbreakers-esque rock. “Wouldn’t Want to be You,” in particular is a heartfelt and well-constructed piece that captures the kind of affect that the band wants to project.
While the style really isn’t for me, I can’t hurl too many invectives at American Bang. It’s true that the songs don’t hit hard and have a real radio-friendly demeanor, but there’s an intangible earnest quality about it all that gives me a respect for American Bang that I haven’t had for other bands that have been the target of my ire on these pages.
As far as Bob Rock is concerned, he’s got a long ways to go to make up for “Load,” “Reload,” and “St. Anger,” but his production helps American Bang sound big and bold. If his intent was to make the album sound like the band’s live show, he succeeded with flying colors. For him, it’s a whole different animal than the Black Album or “Dr. Feelgood,” but I can see why he was interested in the project.