If you thought the only things that Little Rock, Arkansas could produce were Bill Clinton and Evanescence, then you’re probably one of those glass half empty folks. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of the ex-pres and Amy Lee is kind of cute, but let’s face it, they’re not the most shining examples of American ingenuity. That is, of course, where the American Princes come in. Sure, a couple of them are from New York, but the others are Little Rock locals, and their debut album, Little Spaces, repressed by Yep Roc, is taking the `Little’ out of Little Rock.
Opening with alternating fuzz guitar notes like the Breeders’ “No Aloha,” “I Want to Be Good” sets the tone for the whole album. As the album progressed from song to songs, I realized that wanting had nothing to do with it, these guys are good. The raw yearning vocals backed by the harmonies of the rest of the band alongside exquisite drumming and layered guitar lines remind me of another great, underappreciated band, the Afghan Whigs. “Rock and Roll Singer” is another standout track, combining indie rock aesthetics with seventies Midwestern AM rock (a.k.a. Freedom Rock, turn it up!).
“In the Dark” recalls later Replacements, early Paul Westerberg solo work, while “Providence, RI” is what you’d get if you got Ryan Adams liquored up and he walked on stage with Death Cab for Cutie. “Eyeliner” is a slow, sweet country song that tends to put most people in the genre to shame. There’s a gaggle of `alt-country’ bands out there, but the hard rocking American Princes show them all how it should be done with just one song, complete with horns. For a real treat, listen to closer “Revolver.” The vocals bend and strain like Kurt Cobain or Will Sheff over spare acoustic guitar, making it one of the most achingly beautiful songs on this or most albums this year.
This band could not have chosen a better name. I can’t think of any other moniker that could do their music justice. This is heartland, gravel voiced, whiskey soaked, guitar worshipping, rocket fueled, American rock and roll. Yet this is not Bob Seger, Foghat, or any other `American’ rock band you might be thinking of. They are creating a kind of edge walking music in the tradition of the Replacements, Dinosaur Jr., the Pixies, Magnetic Fields and Spoon. It’s not quite alt-country, though sometimes it resembles it. It’s not quite pop, though fans of that genre will not be disappointed by Little Spaces. It’s not quite rock, though that is what it does, rock, and boy, it ain’t little!
Love as Laughter- Laughter’s Fifth
Afghan Whigs- Gentlemen
Diamond Nights- Popsicle