After a five-year reincarnation as indie rock band Communiqué, the four members of American Steel returned to the studio two years ago as their punk rock selves. Dear Friends and Gentle Hearts, the second release since the "reunion," shows off the band's versatility and musicianship more so than earlier recordings. Following up 2007's very punky Destroy Their Future, this one eases back a bit from some of the straight-up punk in favor of some slightly poppier, more danceable rock, as if to make peace between the current band and its alter ego.
The first track, "Emergency House Party," is one of the best dancing songs; upbeat with an addictive guitar riff and an awesome sing-along chorus (Everything will be alright/if only for tonight). Other highlights include the darker, heavier "Safe and Sound," a song of paranoia, and the catchy, singable title track. Between Rory Henderson's just-harsh-enough vocals, plenty of catchy guitar riffs and grooving bass lines, Dear Friends and Gentle Hearts could draw in new fans of the indie/dance persuasion. In fact, the most typically punk, super-sped-up "Where You Want To Be" is the least musically exciting track on the album. Following that is the sharply contrasting, breakup anthem "Finally Alone," full of delightfully tortured vocal lines, bittersweet lyrics, and even commercial potential.
Overall, this album is particularly fun compared to other things American Steel has released; the danceable beats and screamable choruses make you desperate to see them play in person. (Fat Wreck Chords)
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