American Hi-Fi: self-titled

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By Kevin Mathews

We can only hope that artists like Stacy Jones and his group, American Hi-Fi, are the future of rock ‘n’ roll. Jones, who paid his dues drumming for Letters to Cleo and Veruca Salt, two of the biggest alternative acts of the 1990s, does a Phil Collins/Dave Grohl move to the front as singer/songwriter/guitarist with his latest venture.

In recent interviews, Jones has expressed distaste for the modern rock he hears on the radio—“all these songs with no melody to them,” as he puts it. He confesses to be “a pop guy” and to liking “big guitars, stuff like Cheap Trick and bands like that.” He does not even seem to mind American Hi-Fi being tagged as a “power pop” band—a label others like Velvet Crush and The Mayflies USA have rather maligned.

A good sign if ever I saw one.

This eponymous debut, produced by Bob Rock, finds itself on a major label—Island—and stands as good a chance as any to kickstart a melodic rock revival in a scene currently dominated by saccharine pop, tuneless metal and repetitive hip-hop.

The single—“Flavor of the Weak”—sets the American Hi-Fi agenda succinctly, that is, crunching guitars, a sweet tune, love-lorn lyrics (basically Jones pining for a girl unappreciated by her slacker boyfriend—“he’s too stoned”) and toy piano. The sweet and heavy quotient ala Nirvana is fully exploited on the “A Bigger Mood”, “I’m a Fool”, “Blue Day”, “What About Today” and “Hi-Fi Killer”. However, it is on material like the poignant “Safer on the Outside”, jarring “My Only Enemy”, the atmospheric “Don’t Wait For the Sun” and spiky “Surround” that the band proves that it has the range to be more than a post-grunge retread. Still, this IS a major label release and so vigorously commercial fare like the likable “Another Perfect Day” seems destined to be a potential attention getter.

An impressive debut from a talented group unafraid to follow their classic pop-rock instincts in an environment that is unkind to such inclinations. Be sure to watch their progress closely.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/americanhifi-st/