[14 April 2011]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
Sure, you could call the crunchy songs that make up Crawling garage rock. You wouldn’t be wrong, necessarily, but you would be simplifying things. Americans in France distinguish themselves by proving adroit pop shape-shifters all through this record. Sure, opener “Shopping Cart” hits with surf-rock immediacy, but then check the spacey blues of the title track, the sludgy take on dream-pop on “The Mingler”, or the stop-and-start antics of “Sylvia!”. The band never sits still, and while Josh Lajoie proves himself more than just another rock shouter, drummer Casey Cook also juxtaposes his bleat with her own insistent but breathy vocals. Her drum work also runs the gamut from crashing and big to spare and moody, while Lajoie can cut sharp riffs, or chunk his playing into angry squalls as easily as he can mash out power chords. Kent Howard’s bass playing, and contributions from Kingsbury Manx’s Paul Finn on organ and vocals beautifully fill in the spaces between Lajoie and Cook’s terse interplay. All the way through, Crawling smashes into you with sheer volume, but surprises you with its intricacy. There’s certainly an art-rock edge to this, but thing never get overly arch. Even as they sneer from time to time—“Success can suck it!” they scream at one point—they are a sweating, charging rock and roll band first and foremost. That approach is what makes Crawling so solid, and makes Americans in France way more than just another garage-rock band.