American Babies find their voice in a big way on Flawed Logic. Led by guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Tom Hamilton, the band hits its stride, constructing ten songs that remind you why you love rock 'n' roll so much in the first place: big hooks and guitars, songs that make your heart bleed, and a ton of "fuck you" swagger. And underneath it all is enough twang to pull your heartstrings from either the city or the country side.
Although the band's 2008 self-titled debut featured some gems, the record felt a bit contrived -- like Tommy and the boys decided, after going through a heavy Ryan Adams phase, that it would be fun and challenging to make an Americana record. But on Flawed Logic you hear a one-of-a-kind songwriter going back to the simple basics and making it sound as pure as honey and as real as smoke.
"Streets of Brooklyn" is the first track and starts it on the right foot -- Hamilton's vocal delivery is demanding and confident, and when the band hits the chorus you're locked in, riding on the tune's momentum. It doesn't let up; from the way the piano moves in its own time to the backup harmony vocals, everything works on this track. The conversations going on beneath the surface makes the production sound as deliberate as it is direct. By the time it ends, you don't give a shit how you classify this music anymore because it's so good you've become lost in it.
Many songs make you think of Springsteen in the best way possible -- tapping into that magical Boss potion where he can give a pop tune an equal dose of playful, lighthearted sonic space while still remaining powerful and badass (check "Desperate Times" and "Weight of the World" to see what I mean). But even more so on "Joeline"-- one of the record's standouts. The chimes float by so softly and engaging, the guitar just keeps fucking ripping, and the chorus is forever stuck in your head.
But it's the quieter moments where Hamilton shows us his dynamic songwriting. Just take a listen to the delivery of the lines, "no need for true love, because I'd probably not see it through," and "I think you'd like me better as a memory than a husband to be for life" over pedal steel swells in "Restless Heart" to feel the proverbial kick in the nuts we've all felt. While the album closer "Great Expectations" shows a completely different side of the Babies' sound -- spaciousness and softness you don't hear anywhere else on the record. The song exudes beauty in the darkness that comes with the cycle of life and love. In one way or another, it all comes to an end. Ironically, "Great Expectations" sounds like a surprising way to end the record, but this whole record is a surprise -- hopefully 2011 will produce more records like Flawed Logic -- definitely one of the best to come out this year.