With a more sophisticated sound, American Wrestlers are back with their second album, Goodbye Terrible Youth. The band, consisting of front man Gary McClure, Bridgette Imperial, Ian Reitz, and Josh Van Hoorebeke, gives us 31 pure and concise minutes of 80s inspired indie rock with themes of regret, coping, and introspection.
McClure gives listeners a personal glimpse of his life and the things he’s struggling with. He starts strong with “Vote Thatcher,” a song remembering police brutality he has witnessed and the loss of a loved one. He sends his message early with the lyrics, “Stoned by policemen who were stunned by their souls.” In much of the song he seems as though he is only talking to himself, usually in disbelief, like with the lyrics, “I still can’t believe you died.” Although the lyrics are of tragedy, the sound is not somber. McClure interestingly mixes an upbeat electronic-meets-rock ‘n roll sound with lyrics that send a potent message.
The album continues to flow easily into the next few songs–keeping the same themes and general sounds, but the lyrics pertain to vaguer ideas of confusion along with growth. A highlight of the album is “Terrible Youth.” This explains why this album was written and why McClure titled the album the way he did. It’s an ode to a young adulthood that didn’t go particularly well. This album is the last time he will be associated with that time in his life. This is remembering. This is sadness. This is moving on. This is becoming new.
The album begins to come to a close with “Someone Far Away,” a track that leads to a hint of peace in McClure’s life. He doesn’t say he is whole again, but the more acoustic sound and repeating line, “feeling fine, just fine” leads me to believe that if he ever found serenity through the creative process, it was in this song.
The nine-song album ends with an acoustic guitar, a piano, and a few electric guitar riffs that help infuse the sound American Wrestlers began with at the beginning of the album. “Real People” settles the album with a hint of storytelling. Confidence appears along with remembering. His voice is soft, and the lyrics repeat his message of getting along; there is no need to worry about him now. It drifts away with only a piano.
Although the album is essentially a never-ending search for serenity in a time of sadness, I do not think people are limited to listening to it only when they feel that. I like this album because it recognizes that problems in the world exist, but the sound can apply to any mood. The rhythms brings forward a style from decades ago mixed with modern day indie rock, while the lyrics blend seamlessly to convey social issues as well as McClure’s personal frustration with things he has seen and felt.
American Wrestlers are a band to watch. They are real and they aren’t hiding. That’s important. Maybe more so now than ever.