Friday, August 15, 2008

Our American Cousin - 'How's This for a Diploma?'

Hey, remember American Football? Kansas City natives Our American Cousin sure do. Their debut EP How’s This for a Diploma?, off of No Sleep Records, combines the instrumentals of AF/caP’n Jazz with a touch of Cute is What We Aim For-style vocals. It’s a good enough con deal, overall, mixing alternately dirge-y and squealing angular guitars with a bits of string arrangements here and there.

How’s This for a Diploma? starts off with the pseudo-indie/punk of “Ernesto Perez One. Ernesto Perez Two.” It pretty much sets the M.O. for the rest of the EP, as frontman Kurtis Viers screeches and thrashes his guitar around while the rest of the band does the same. It’s refreshingly dirtier than your average emo band these days.

While some may fault Our American Cousin for being too derivative, having plundered a lot of their tricks from the ’90s emo era, at least the group has figured out how to get dissonant and harsh without going the screamo/metalcore route. At the same time, though, the band could still use a bit of seasoning. Sample lyrics from “Ernesto Perez One. Ernesto Perez Two”: “Let’s keep each other sweet/Comets tell of the moonshine/And prove how deep our pockets are.” The group’s lyricism is sort of ethereal, sort of a high school poetry session. But, if the listener can step back from the corniness of those lines, he and/or she may just notice the simple yet elegant piano line gliding underneath of them.

Our American Cousin delivers more in the same vein of “Ernesto Perez One. Ernesto Perez Two.” with the EP’s other two tracks, “Think I May Have an Ego?” and “Lights Out (Sock Full of Batteries).” “Think I May Have an Ego?” rocks a multi-part vocal line for maximally weird effect while needling guitars, crashing cymbals, and a quaint lil organ line pop up throughout. The band’s solid sense of instrumentation is further complemented by Parker Viers’ cello playing in the track’s triumphant build-up. Remember, ya’ll: Cello + snare roll = epic x sweet.

“Lights Out (Sock Full of Batteries)” closes out the disc, and reveals Our American Cousin’s grasp of the ambient as well as the rocking. It quickly heads back towards OAC’s emo-rock comfort zone, though. It’s more of the same; not that that’s a complaint.

How’s This for a Diploma? shows a lot of promise for Our American Cousin. The group’s mix of rock with more classically-oriented instruments like cello and piano make for an enticing 14 minutes of indie/punk/emo. While the EP is by no means perfect, as the lyrics could use work and drummer Adam Park still needs to figure out if he wants to play loose or sloppy/behind the rest of the band, it is still a good start all the same. [NOTE: This band broke up soon after releasing this EP. Chumps.]

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