It’s pretty common for a band to find their sound and just exist within that niche. You do something well and you keep doing it. Play it safe and the fans know what to expect with each album that comes out. No surprises, no disappointments. But it takes a certain boldness for an artist to venture outside their wheelhouse and try something new and to allow their music to naturally grow and evolve. With their new album, Serf Rock, New Brunswick’s American Lions demonstrates that exact boldness.
American Lions have been kicking ass in the New Jersey basement scene since 2013 and have become well known for having some of the wildest performances around. I’ll forever remember their set at the last Bomb Shelter show where guitarist Justin Calaycay was crowd surfed around the basement of about one hundred moshers while simultaneously ripping a solo and tearing the ceiling apart. But while American Lions have plenty of all favorites like “Bed Bugs” and “Camden Aquarium” we’ve come to love over the years, the band chooses not to simply recycle and regurgitate the same material.
Enter Serf Rock, American Lions’ debut full length LP. Throughout the fourteen tracks of this record, there are still of course some certified bangers. The titular track features a heavy riff that feels right at home in the middle of any American Lions set. However, “Serf Rock” is a completely instrumental track, so where songs in the past utilized anthemic choruses, the band here relies on a more lyrical guitar line instead of traditional vocals.
The band also took some larger steps in the evolution of their sound, slowing down several songs and even replacing the lead guitar with piano in others. Admittedly, these were some unexpected changes on the first listen through the album, but these particular tracks, such as “One Two Plus Five,” work well in juxtaposition to the more traditional tracks and create a sense of pacing as the album progresses from start to finish while also showing off the band’s talents as musicians and songwriters beyond hardcore riff masters.
American Lions celebrated the release of Serf Rock back on February 2 with a show at their own basement venue, Mount Moon. The show also featured performances by friends and local favorites Toy Cars, Haunt Club, and Living Tradition. The crowd during American Lions’ set was absolutely riotous, an endless mosh that swallowed up everyone in the basement, who’s shouts and banging on the air vents at times came close to drowning out the band until guitarist James Bauman pleaded, “we appreciate this so much, but please chill with that, we live here.”
Serf Rock can be found on all major streaming services and can be purchased on the band’s Bandcamp page. As for American Lions themselves, they will be playing a show on February 24 at Muchmore’s in Brooklyn and while American Lions won’t be playing at these shows, you can catch some other very cool bands playing at Mount Moon on February 17 and March 1.
Adam gave man-birth to N.J. Racket and is as close to an "editor-in-chief" the site has. He's a god awful photographer.