CD Review of American Art by Weatherbox

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American Art
starstarhalf starno starno star Label: Doghouse Records
Released: 2007
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It’s not fair to judge a band’s sound by how they look, but sometimes you can do the opposite and figure out how a band looks just by listening to one of their songs. Let’s try it with Weatherbox and the first song off of their debut, American Art.

The album begins with “Atom Smash” and it starts as a surprisingly heavy old-school punk rock song. These guys must be hardcore punks, tattooed to high heaven with leather jackets and possibly sporting a Mohawk or even liberty spikes. Then the chorus kicks in and the promising growling vocals that opened the song are gone, replaced by the typical emoboy whine. Still, the music is pretty aggressive. Take away the Mohawks and leather jackets, but it’s safe to assume these guys probably rock some killer tats and look like they live the hard life. Now we’re on the final refrain and the crunching guitars are replaced with the treble-heavy emo riff backing a not-really-singing-and-not-really-screaming vocal. Okay, it’s probably not a stretch to assume these dudes have the dyed-black emo hair, tight jeans and collared T’s. Let’s visit their MySpace and find out…

Yup, three for three.

Weatherbox has garnered the attention of some punk rock sites, but it’s a mystery why. Each song on American Art is not only a typical example of derivative emo-rock, but it is in such an obvious way that it’s hard to believe they are fooling anyone. From the kind-of-creative song titles (standouts including “Moments Before the Smashing of Future Ryan” and “Wolftank, Doff Thy Name”) to the occasional acoustic ballad “for the ladies,” Weatherbox has successfully created an album using an emo template happily supplied to them by Dashboard Confessional, and is now nearly guaranteed a late-afternoon spot at the next Vans Warped Tour.

This wouldn’t be that bad if it wasn’t so painfully obvious and transparent. Music doesn’t have to be authentic or steeping in real-life experiences to be good, but it doesn’t hurt. When Lou Reed sang about heroin, you believed that man spent half his life with a needle in his forearm, but when Weatherbox's lead singer, Brian Warren, wails about having “all the drugs in the world” and being called a junkie, he sounds about as authentic as that kid in high school who thought Kiss was ripping off Marilyn Manson. When he seemingly enters the Betty Ford Clinic before the final refrain and boasts that he has “all the love in the world,” it doesn’t sound convincing, either in an ironic “everyone hates me” kind of way, or as a sincere statement about the power of love over substance abuse.


~James B. Eldred