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‘American High’ Is Barenaked Ladies 2.0

A new band to add to a playlist for 90's alt-rock lovers.

Josh Helmuthby Josh Helmuth

American High is a band out of Sacramento who just released their debut album. But upon giving it a listen, I swear I thought I was getting punked.

‘Is this the Barenaked Ladies?!’

The indie rock band refers themselves as an alternative rock band — that much is true. But they also call themselves acoustic punk rock, a band influenced by Nirvana, Green Day and Tom Petty. After listening to Bones In The Attic, Flowers In The Basement, all I here is Barenaked.

I almost feel apologetic. But it’s true. This sound has the Canadian-band written all over it.

Of course the sentiment isn’t all bad. The Ladies are a great band, albeit arguably a one-hit wonder group, but still a great band. The problem with American High’s debut work is that it isn’t anything we haven’t heard before. It’s white noise.  It’s underwhelming. It’s simply not different enough.

But first let’s go over the positive notes of the band’s newest work:

They have terrific, sometimes Beach Boys-like harmonies.

The lead guitars include very catchy, memorable melodies .

The songs are reminiscent to 90s alt-pop-rock.

But the bad?

With the exception of “1.17.61,” many of the songs sound too similar.

There are no memorable lyrics.

The guitars are too bright and therefore lack depth.

Some of the compositions are uninspiring, sounding like basic Garage Band loops.

If I’m being honest, Bones In The Attic, Flowers In The Basement, is a piece of work that showcases talent, but not originality. For fans of the Barenaked Ladies or Blues Traveler, you’ll like it. For the rest of us …. meh.

The band has some work to do. But there’s reason for optimism considering their outlook while honing their craft.

“We think songs are more interesting when they can be seen in different ways. We shun the tired INTRO-CHORUS-INTRO-CHORUS-LEAD-CHORUS-EXIT blueprint. We prefer freeform songs. We tried to make each song completely unique. With a totally different sound for each. Weird chords with weird changes, weird blueprints, weird harmonies and backwards leads. Happy singers singing dark songs of love lost, the costs of constant war, and a scream into the night. WAKE UP!”

American High CD cover

If you’re absolutely, head over heels in love with 90s alt-rock, then American High is certainly a band to give a listen. I can especially see this band being entertaining live if their vocals are as solid on-stage as they are in studio. However, to me, this band needs to do more to separate their sound from the rockers of decade’s past. Whether it’s adding more of an edge, some distortion or memorable lyrics, I want to see this band be badass enough to play the festival circuit, not the local fair circuit.


Josh Helmuth is an editor for Crave and a longtime music lover whose first record was Eric Clapton. However, his first concert? That choice he will take to the grave. 

Listen to Bones In The Attic, Flowers In The Basement here. Visit the band’s website here.