American Suitcase - 2000 Bluefoot

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ARTIST: American Suitcase
ALBUM: Bluefoot
LABEL: TPWB
SERIAL: QK9
YEAR: 2000

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: image
LINEUP: Egil Braekken - vocals, guitars, organ, handclaps * Anders Vinnog - vocals, guitars, organ, flute, keyboards * Lars Sorum - percussion, backing vocals, kinderglockenspiel * Stale Heitmann - bass * Stefan Skanseng - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Bullet * 02 A O R * 03 The Secret * 04 Indie Gurl * 05 I Don't Know * 06 Millenium Man * 07 Chapter 26 * 08 Ice Breaker * 09 Master James * 10 The Llord Is A Hoochie Coochie Man

Background

As a rule, Norway is a breeding ground for all things melodic, and Norwegian popsters American Suitcase is another band with well-honed pop sensibilities to emerge from Scandinavia.

Formed bizarrely enough from the ashes of punk group Acid Donk in 1996, the band executes their brand of classic guitar pop efficiently and confidently, but at times a little unambitiously. Since their transition from punk to pop, American Suitcase has played the acclaimed US pop festival International Pop Overthrow and released an EP and vinyl album before 'Bluefoot'.

Apparently, the guys decided to switch styles because, in their own words, 'pop songs come easier to mind than punk songs' and the ten 60's influenced songs on 'Bluefoot' certainly prove that theory correct without necessarily presenting anything radically different or new.

The Songs

In fact, the melodies and harmonies on much of the disc raise suspicions that the members of American Suitcase have been preserved in an ice block since 1965 which has only just melted.

Still, good melodies are good melodies and the gloriously sugar-coated chorus of the lead-off track 'The Bullet' defines American Suitcase's sound for the rest of the album. Opening with a razor-sharp riff, it displays a strong Beatles and Byrds jangly pop influence evident again on 'The Secret', another well crafted tune.

The band's happy go luck approach continues on the humourous 'AOR', a light-hearted tune about an AOR obsessed girlfriend who won't stop playing Styx and Boston records. (sounds like my kinda girl ... Ed)

Similarly, to these ears, the end of the bouncy 'Millennium Man' seemingly turns into a strange chant to the golfer Tiger Woods (perhaps the song should've been called 'Club Man or dare-I-say-it, 'Stick Man', Ed).

Self-produced and mostly self-written, 'Bluefoot' benefits from flawless engineering and sounds as professional as any expensively produced album you could care to name.

Yet despite the quality musicianship and production, it's difficult to listen to the disc all the way through without bemoaning a lack of diversity in some of the tunes. Take 'Ice Breaker', a pleasant enough tune with a quirky keyboard intro, but it's as if the same melodies are being recycled from earlier on.

The band does change pace on 'I Don't Know' and 'Chapter 26', but part of the reason why some of the songs sound seamless could lie in vocalist Egil Brekken's vocal style, which some might say is unique and others might label monotonous. It works well on songs like the excellent 'Master James', but either way, it's a voice you'll love or hate.

In Summary

That said, die-hard pure pop fans should find a lot to appreciate on 'Bluefoot' as it does evoke memories of a time when classic guitar pop was at its peak.

Those looking for a little more diversity in their music may wish to look elsewhere, but judging by the ethos of the band, to be 'a brilliant exponent for classic pop music onstage and in the studio', that won't bother American Suitcase one bit.


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