Last year, I had the distinct privilege of reviewing the American Princes’ album, Little Spaces, as it was re-released by Yep Roc records once the band signed on to the Chapel Hill, North Carolilna label. What I discovered was assuredly what Yep Roc discovered, an incredible indie band with a talent for both music and words, a shredding dual guitar arsenal, a scorching dual vocal attack and songs that could very well be your salvation. Yet even though I was already familiar with the Princes’ work, nothing prepared me for the ambitious and impressive follow-up album, the ironically titled Less and Less. With thirteen tracks, each one seemingly better than the last, Little Rock, Arkansas’ American Princes are really giving you more and more.
The producer of Less and Less, Alan Weatherhead, who has also worked with Cracker and Sparklehorse, somehow managed to eke every single last drop of energy, subtle nuance and simple brilliance out of this band. There are just as many stark ballads on Less and Less as there are barn burning guitar rockers. The album starts with the most frantic and frenetic song, “Stolen Blues,” which is a great segue from their past material in to their new stuff, as it hits both sides of the spectrum, from the two guitar rock peaks to the quieter, more sensitive valleys. And that’s not to say that the valleys are low points. Ballads such as the like titled “You & Them” and “You & Me” are exercises in restrained and understated beauty, showing there’s much more to Little Princes than wailing guitars.
One only needs to hear a few songs on Less and Less to understand its magnificence. “Open Letter” is a whisper of a scream, a letter to an abusive alcoholic father, saying “I’m not going to stop `til you get hurt.” Another stunner is “Annie,” a Jeff Tweedy meets the Beatles string laden treasure. The song captures the finality of a breakup, the necessities and realities therein and its inherent remorse in a way I’ve rarely heard. The line, “let’s get brokenhearted again,” is as equally powerful as “I am trying to break your heart.” “Never Grow Old” features early U2-like guitars with classic rock falsettos. Later tracks “Copper for Sand” and “Breaks” are powerful equals in lyrics like the former’s “You’re a fucking disaster…you’re the hat in my hand” and the latter’s “I don’t think I’m an antichrist, but when you look at me, you look at me with wounded eyes.”
The heartbreaking lyrics within Less and Less usually denote the work of a veteran band, one that has been slugging it out for years, quite a few albums under their belts and wisdom that only comes with advancing age. Yet the American Princes have managed to make a great album their second time out, and a significant leap forward with only their third album. Less and Less may be a reference to the excess that producer Alan Weatherhead stripped away to make the album that much more intimate, or it may be a reference to the loss and heartbreak documented in its lyrics, but again, I really can’t help but think of the title as an ironic twist on the idea that this album is really giving us much more than we bargained for, and we’re loving it.