The songs on AM’s debut, Francophiles & Skinny Ties, average about two minutes in length, but those two minutes contain more power than most bands can muster in five or six. The Brooklyn post-punk trio owes most of their sound to polished bands of the late seventies and early eighties such as the Jam, the Knack, and Greg Kihn. Speaking of which, they even have a song called “InTheCity (NYC),” somewhat their hymn to their hometown as Paul Weller’s band’s song was to London.
Falling somewhere between an album and an EP, there are eight tracks, but the total length of the CD is just under twenty minutes, Francophiles is a solid release. Drummer Jarrod Ruby and bassist Scott Cleveland provide a concrete rhythm to which frontman and guitarist James Jones can bend his guitar and voice around with effects and screaming galore. Certain songs on the release sound like early Rocket From the Crypt and that’s a good thing. Weirdly enough, some songs reminded me of They Might Be Giants’ “(She Was a) Hotel Detective,” and that isn’t necessarily a good thing. It’s not that I don’t like that song, it’s just that it’s a little tongue in cheek. Like comparing a band to Spinal Tap rather than Iron Maiden.
If fault is to be found in the record, it is that it seems too polished. Tragic story aside, the Exploding Hearts managed to find a sound that transported the listener to a specific time and place. One thought that the record could have really been recorded in 1979 rather than in 2002. Francophiles on the other hand could only have been recorded recently, and it doesn’t scream New York like some of their contemporaries’ albums do. What it does is rock and rock hard.
I could easily see lots of people having quite a lot of fun and imbibing quite a lot of Pabst Blue Ribbon at an AM show. There would be heads nodding and kids doing the pogo again. But until they get a better producer and a thicker sound, there won’t be all that many people at those shows. AM is destined for something better, but they’ve made a damn hell of a good start.
The Jam- In the City
Rocket From the Crypt- Paint as a Fragrance
The Knack- Get the Knack