We had the news that one of the great hardcore bands of the turn of the century, American Nightmare were reuniting for two shows at the end of December 2011. The band’s name became a worldwide trending topic on Twitter so exciting was the news. Conversely, however, there seemed to be a great number of music fans who were unaware of who this band was or why they should care. Tom Doyle wants to talk about American Nightmare.
When Gallows kicked the doors open with Orchestra of Wolves in the summer of ’06 and became the gateway band for the relative mainstream, it was with great sadness that many of us noted that one of the finest (and most influential) modern hardcore bands were not around to enjoy the success. That band was American Nightmare.
Having split up in summer 2004 with heartbreaking suddenness and tantalisingly close to a European tour, American Nightmare (who later re-named themselves Give Up The Ghost after a legal battle with a similarly named band) left behind a discography which has filled the ears of countless hardcore fans and has seen their legend, at least within in the underground, grow exponentially even in their absence.
With the announcement this week that the band are reforming for a couple of shows, including one in their hometown of Boston as well as LA there is no finer time to reflect upon the career of a band who mean a great deal to many but who will be relative unknowns to an even larger number.
The speedy yet claustrophobic musicality of A.N and undeniably poetic lyricism of vocalist Wesley Eisold (who now makes his name in Cold Cave) set the band apart at the time as gut-punchingly powerful but also emotionally erudite and disarmingly honest. A read through the lyrics sheet of the bands second and last full length We’re Down Til We’re Underground shows a band matching punk rock ethics to visceral emotional outpourings.
Youngsters out there will no doubt be keen to learn that this is a band My Chemical Romance supported in the days before they decided to fuck off any sense of artistic integrity and suck the veiny dick of inanity in search of the mega-bucks whilst Pete Wentz and Fall Out Boy took it upon themselves to relieve the liner notes A.N’s first album (the ironically titled ‘Background Music’) of a selection of lyrics, only crediting Eisold after he kicked up a fuss about the theft of his intellectual property.
Of course, reunions are often fraught things. Will it be the same as it was before? Is this a ‘band’ or five dudes in it for a pay day? What has changed that the previously insurmountable obstacles have come crumbling down? These questions are thrown more firmly into focus in this case when we look at a quote from Eisold as recently as June this year:
“Some bands reunite and it works, whether it’s sincere or just a little campy. But I feel like this is a band that can never play again because it would be impossible to replicate how it felt away from the specific moment that it happened in. Hardcore is the best played by youth who care about it more than anything in the world. For some rock bands it’s easy to put on a show, get together with friends and half-ass your way through the songs, but that just seems impossible for American Nightmare.”
Of the two LPs American Nightmare put out, We’re Down ‘Til We’re Underground is the most accessible but Background Music is the finest – both of them are venomous blasts of punk which slice through every level of human emotion as readily as they will slice through your eardrums. Not only were they incredibly good, but they had a profound effect in the UK with a tranche of bands emerging with a similar style and feel (I point you in the direction of Brighton/Sheffield’s now sadly defunct Legacy) As influential and important as Glassjaw? You’d better believe it.
I urge you to listen to all the American Nightmare records. Loudly. On repeat. But failing that, here are the essential A.N tracks:
The Ice Age Is Coming
It’s getting cold outside but this sub-40 second blast of fuck you punk rock will warm you up.
A fan favourite which shows the band at their destructive best. If you like Gallows, we defy you not to get down to this.
Try this on for size as an album opener (after a moody intro) Un-fucking-stoppable.
Melancholic fury and atmospheric desperation wrapped up in less than three minutes.