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Issue: May 2008

Happy Cynicism

Other People (Yep Roc)
American Princes

One thing is for sure, American Princes wear their cynicism on their collective sleeve. The album begins with the lyric "Love don't mean nothing ... you won't feel nothing." The grammar leaves a bit to be desired, but the Princes are up front with their outlook. When "Son of California" cues up, vocalist David Slade wails "I have never been so alone," and one wonders if this is going to be more overwrought angst-pop.

But this band doesn't go down the cookie-cutter emo path (thank goodness); this outfit pours forth big danceable beats, echoey sustained guitar riffs and happy melodies, even while delivering their often-depressing messages. Ultimately, the album plays like some of the better efforts to come out of the 1980s; the "Breakfast Club" set would have been all over this band.

While there are moments when American Princes sound a bit like Soft Cell singing to us about "Tainted Love," there are sprinkles of the Cure and maybe even early Tears For Fears (not the radio stuff), along with any number of indie Brit-pop bands of the era. At the same time, one could also draw connections with modern bands like the Shins and the Weakerthans.

Perhaps the best feature of this collection is that it is instantly and consistently listenable. There's really not a turd on the whole album, which is encouraging. Even when not at their best, the Princes managed to pull off what they're trying to pull off.

For instance, while the delivery of "Kid Incinerator" is a bit clunky, the lyric is a deft stab at popular culture, easily tossing off lines like "Nobody loves fashion as much as they are told/Raise your hand if you are tired of being bought and sold."

Another highlight is "Real Love," which is an insightfully sad denouncement of the importance society places on romantic love. "I don't care about real love/I just want a world that will bear its own weight," Slade insists. The song itself is a rocker with some great production and an especially good performance by drummer Matt Quin, who pounds out the song's frustration with ferocity.

For all its cynicism, Other People is the kind of album that makes a cynical music geek like me feel a little better about the state of rock music.

Head on over to www.americanprinces.com to find out more.

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