West 78: American Girl (2002)

FILL ME IN MANThis is an older review of mine, presented here for archival purposes. The writing is undoubtedly different to the present, and the review style may differ between publications. Enjoy, if that’s the right word. 

I’d like to apologise in advance for this review. I am sure that no matter how much I plunge through the dictionary, and no matter how hard I try, I won’t be able to find words succinct enough to communicate to you exactly how awful, how dog-humpingly insipid American Girl is.

It’s often said that you can’t judge a book by its cover. The same might be thought to apply to albums. I don’t think it’s the case: the clip-art cornucopia that comes with Microsoft Word has been used to good effect here, along with what’s undoubtedly an all-American picture of three chicks and a Corvette. Classy. It’s like being stood in front of the world’s largest loudspeaker horn while it plays whatever the mediocrity meter’s equivalent of the highest DEFCON level is.

I tried to listen to the disc and enjoy it for the cheese value, but it’s almost impossible. The playing’s ultra-clean, but it has that whole “Dad’s wrestling with middle age and is trying to live out his dream of rockin’ out before arthritis catches up with him” vibe; what could be tongue-in-cheek rock becomes naff noodling. With far too much reliance on chorus pedals. You don’t need to double crap, folks! Unfortunately, that’s what’s dished up here: cod-Southern rock, some upbeat, tongue-in-cheek numbers like “You Got To Deal”, and syrupy feelgoodism in the “Come On Over” vein. There is, beyond surface sparkle, little aural redemption found within.

Thankfully, there’s one person to blame for all this. Kerry Bell wrote, so the liner tells me, all the words and music contained herein. Sir, I respectfully advise that you stick to the Copacabana Lounge of the local HoJo and don’t attempt to seek wider acceptance for your music. I’m sure you’re a lovely bloke, but this is just overplayed quasi dad-rock hair-scales lite muzak, and as such, deserves to be found in cut-out bins in Siberia.

Oh, and there’s a hidden track. Remember how Hendrix burned up “The Star Spangled Banner” and made the horror of war speak from his stack? Think that, without the emotion.

As war looms ever closer, I beg you to remember how the US bombarded Noriega with godawful music in order to break down his will to live, to macerate his morale. I have a feeling that West 78 may well see a tour of duty in the near future.

First published on Splendid in February 2003.

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