The deluxe reissue of American Football's only LP benefits from unusually good timing: as self-identifying emo bands are making music that’s more mature, refined, and exploratory than anything that came before it, American Football is currently the most influential album in the genre.
“Honestly I can’t remember all my teenage feelings and their meanings.” Any list of Great Moments in Emo Lyricism would be incomplete without this curious Mike Kinsella-sung line during “Honestly?”, the third track from American Football’s only album, released in 1999. But really...honestly? We are, after all, talking about a genre assumed to be in constant contact with the feelings of teendom—but the next line gives more context: “They seem too/ See-through/ To be true.” Rather than someone cutting themselves off from or invalidating their own teenage feelings, Kinsella’s just outside that time frame trying to figure out how the emotions and music that moved him during his formative years figure into his current life. That’s why, as self-identifying emo bands are making music that’s more mature, refined, and exploratory than anything that came before it, American Football is currently the most influential album in the genre.
“Honestly I can’t remember all my teenage feelings and their meanings.” （坦率地说，我已记不住我所有的和青春有关的感受和它们的意义）任何一个“最伟大的Emo歌词片段”名单中没有这句绝妙的歌词便不会完整，而它是由Mike Kinsella在AF唯一一张在1999年发布的同名专辑中的第三首歌曲"Honestly?"中所演唱的。但真的...是坦率吗？我们毕竟是在讨论这样一类好像是假设与青春的感受有紧密关联的音乐—但下一句似乎给了更多的信息：“They seem too/ See-through/ To be true.”(它们似乎对现实而言太过透明)比起一些人像上面这样想把青春与他们的记忆就此断绝关系，Kinsella实际上却脱离了时间束缚而去回首追溯在他成长成人的过程中那些令他感动的音乐与情感。这就是为何，在自我认同的Emo乐队开始制作比以前更加成熟、精致而具有探索性的音乐时，AF成为了现在这类音乐中最具影响力的一张专辑。
This deluxe reissue of American Football benefits from unusually good timing—and unlike most solemnly revered anniversary sets, this isn’t a mobilization of fan dollars after countless inclusions in Best Of Decade lists, and it's not a case of “You had to be there” nostalgia, either. The raw 4-track demos, generous liner notes (written by guitarist Steve Holmes), and candid photographs are meant to welcome the people who weren’t “there” back in 1999, a grouping that includes pretty much everybody at this point. Still, the album's reach in 2014 is estimable: American Football recently sold out an entire weekend at Webster Hall in New York in the matter of minutes—each night they'll play to a crowd ten times bigger than any they saw during their entire existence.
AF的唯一一张LP的豪华再版发行的价值便体现在了现在这个不同寻常的好时机，同时不像绝大多数的一本正经的周年纪念集，这不是各种无限的精选集后的又一张粉丝吸金集，也不是“你必须在那儿” 的念旧（注：通过下文我猜测是指专为死忠粉发行必须买，并且排外的意思...）。4首粗糙的demos，慷慨的说明文字（由吉他手Steve Holmes所写）和偷拍的照片都意指欢迎那些99年并不在“那儿”的歌迷，这可是现在这张专辑的一大批听众。而这张专辑在2014年所得的成绩是瞩目的：AF最近整周都是几分钟内在纽约的Webster Hall售罄—每晚他们都会为比以前他们在演出时所看到的大十倍的人群表演。
Personally, it took me damn near a decade to find and appreciate American Football, and looking back, it's easy to understand why it didn’t have made an instantaneous or seismic impact upon its release. After the implosion of Cap’n Jazz, Mike’s brother Tim was the more public, combative and divisive party; meanwhile, the Promise Ring had just released Very Emergency months prior, one of emo's preliminary pushes towards the center. Consequently, American Football came together quickly, stirred up a decent amount of anticipation from a formative EP (its exclusion is the only disappointment the reissue provides), and disbanded almost immediately after the release of the LP.
对我来说，我花了几乎十年来找到AF然后赞赏他们，现在回首，也很容易能理解当时刚发行时他们为什么没有造成地震式的影响，在Cap’n Jazz（注：乐队主要成员Kinsella三兄弟的众多乐队中的另一个乐队，它们多多少少都对Emo有影响）分裂后，Mike的兄弟Tim是更知名的，且好事的与造成分裂的人（注：Tim是Cap'n Jazz里的成员，但不在AF里），而同时，他参加的乐队The Promise Ring也在几月前发行了Very Emergency，这张专辑也被视作将Emo推向主流的奠基石之一。所以，AF很快组成，通过一张定形的EP激起了一群人的期待（这块内容的遗漏是再版专辑中唯一的一个遗憾），然后在发行LP后几乎立即解散了。
Of course, hardcore fans claim plenty of one-off collectors’ items as landmarks, and in retrospect, American Football’s existence as something of a cul de sac rather than a connection to Kinsella’s later work as Owen or Owls further serves to show what a unique record it is. American Football’s greatest innovation was successfully removing any trace of punk rock while still functioning within the genre. This was a bold maneuver, since the genre's hardcore roots were about the only thing that gave its practicioners even the slightest bit of credibility. American Football weren’t the only ones headed in new directions (see: the Appleseed Cast), but whatever you think “punk rock” means, they got rid of it on American Football—there’s no confrontation, almost no distortion, no power chords, and none of the verse/chorus structure that was maintained even when emo became virtually synonymous with alt-rock.
In actuality, American Football is one of the more subtle post-rock records of its time—a variation on what the Sea and Cake and Gastr Del Sol were doing a few hours north in Chicago, but crucially operating from the heart rather than the brain. Only “Honestly?” bears some remnant of proper “rock” music, its main riff a twang-free rendering of “Rebel Rebel”. The cascading coda of “Stay Home” alludes to Slowdive's Pygmalion, while “The Summer Ends” recasts the pastoral free-form, flowing hymnals of late Talk Talk as a swooning mash note.
事实上，AF是当时最敏感的后摇唱片之一—当时在北芝加哥的the Sea and Cake 和 Gastr Del Sol（注：当时好像在做一些更偏独立的音乐）也在做类似风格的东西，但他们更偏向走心而非走脑。只有“Honestly?”还在某种程度上保留着一些“摇滚”的痕迹，其中的主旋律重复段的自由弹拨声让人想到David Bowie的“Rebel Rebel”。“Stay Home”中最后如瀑布般的演奏不禁让人觉得其受到了Slowdive（注：元老级Shoegaze乐队）的Pygmalion这张专辑的影响，而“The Summer Ends”则完全去除了那种田园式的自由形式，写起了像Talk Talk（一个英国非典型后摇乐队）后期那样赞美诗形式的、令人着迷的、情书式的东西。
In the reissue's liner notes, Holmes makes numerous mentions of the band emulating Steve Reich and Miles Davis—typical namedrops for people in their early 20s who want to make it clear how seriously they’re taking music these days. There is trumpet on the record, courtesy of drummer Steve Lamos, and no one will mistake its sounds for anything the Prince of Darkness ever conjured. But Lamos’ amateur ingenuity perfectly suits the album's informality. The jarring blue note that introduces “The Summer Ends” sounds like a mistake at first, but by playing it twice the wrong note becomes the right note; it's a Choose Your Own Adventure Breakup Song that leaves its conclusion open-ended, even if you just know something’s forever lost. Likewise, over the glimmering motifs of “For Sure”, Lamos' sighing, brassy wail lets you know that when Kinsella whispers “Imagine us together”, the whole thing will end in tears.
在再版的专辑说明文字里，Holmes提到了许多有关乐队效仿Steve Reich和Miles Davis—都是在他们20多岁的时候对待现在的音乐十分严谨的人（注：虽然不太懂为什么要这么说，但是总之两个人都是大人物，前者是极简音乐四巨头之一，后者是传奇爵士乐手），唱片中的小号由鼓手Steve Lamos演奏，但没人会错认为这是魔鬼吹出的技艺高超的魔奏（注：这里应该是暗指Miles Davis，因为他有一首歌叫做the Prince of Darkness），但Lamo的业余演奏却非常完美的契合了专辑的非正式感，“The Summer Ends” 中最初的那不和谐的爵士音律一开始还让人以为是不经意的错误，但重复两次后错误的音符就变为了正确的音符；而这首有关分手的歌曲中的开放式结尾让人留下了想象的空间，即使你能感受到的只是有些东西已永远的逝去了。同样的在“For Sure”的模糊的乐旨里，当Lamo悲伤的乐符与Kinsella耳语般的歌词“Imagine us together”交融时，一切都在满满的泪水中结束了。
Minimalism, repetition, and subtle virtuosity were rare elements amidst Cap’n Jazz’s spazzed-out arpeggios, the Vagrant label's lockstep pop, and the severe start-and-stop musicianship of Jade Tree and Deep Elm bands. So what, exactly, makes American Football emo? Upon announcing their reunion, the band explained their return by joking, “Obviously, we knew the time was ripe for three middle aged dudes to play some old songs about teenage feelings, and stand around tuning guitars for a long time." It’s actually the latter part of that statement that points to American Football's constantly shifting, implacable emotional pull. There isn’t much insight as to what inspired Kinsella’s lyrics and he didn’t emote harder or rawer than anyone else. But Holmes and Kinsella’s guitar playing is the most emotive the genre has been privy to, inverting the typical power trio dynamic and rendering Kinsella’s minimal lyrics as a platform for elaboration rather than the final word.
极简主义，重复段落以及精湛而细致的技巧是在Cap'n Jazz那些失控的琶音、Vagrant厂牌里死板的流行乐、Jade Tree和Deep Elm厂牌里那些总是时好时坏的乐队中非常稀有的元素（注：上面提到的三个厂牌都发行过一些Emo的唱片）。但说到底，究竟是什么让AF这样Emo？在他们宣布重聚时，乐队半开玩笑的解释了他们重聚的原因：“显然，现在是让三个中年男子来站着弹半天吉他然后唱一些有关青春的歌的最合适的时候了”这实际上是AF对他们不断变化的，毫不停息的对后来Emo音乐的影响力的解释的后半部分。但你仍然无从得知是什么给了Kinsella写这些歌词灵感以及他为什么没有写出更夸张的激进的歌词等等。而相对于专辑中传统的三大件演奏形式与将Kinsella的简约式的歌词看成一种精致化的呈现，Holmes和Kinsella的吉他成为了这类音乐中最Emo的代表。（这句话就是那种翻译的每个东西里都会有的怎样都看不懂的那句话:)）
Very little of American Football is in a minor key and almost none of it can be performed on a single guitar, so it’s not explicitly heartbroken music, nor is it ever entirely joyous. Rather than pinpoint an emotion, the record exists on a continuum. There’s no right answer as to whether “The Summer Ends” is a devotional, a last goodbye, or some combination of the two—the ache and beauty are intertwined. Instrumental "You Know I Should Be Leaving Soon” is the album's most playful cut, and it’s similarly open to interpretation: is it about leaving soon because everyone has to eventually get on with their day after spending the night together, or is it about leaving—like, for good? Nothing suggests a typical narrative arc, but it's worth noting that the song that follows "You Know I Should Be Leaving Soon" is called “But the Regrets are Killing Me”, and after that, “I’ll See You When We’re Both Not So Emotional” (let it be said, these guys had a sense of humor). American Football operates from a mindset where everything is about to happen, and that inability to stay present is a feeling that’s neither teenage nor see-through nor false.
AF的音乐中很少有是带着忧郁的心情的，也几乎都不能直接用一把吉他就能够演奏出来，所以它不是那种典型的心碎音乐，但也不是完全的欢快。相对于准确地描写情感，唱片更像是一个“连续体”。对于“The Summer Ends”中是在讲述一次祷告，一次最后的道别亦或是一种美与伤痛的结合物，并没有一个准确的答案。而器乐曲"You Know I Should Be Leaving Soon”则是专辑里最显有趣的一首歌。它也有一个开放性的释义：这是仅是在讲述一群人在一个晚上欢乐的玩耍后各自离去的事，还是说在讲述一次，为追寻更美好的事物的离别？没有什么在指向一个典型的叙事弧，但令人值得注意是这首歌之后的一首歌叫“But the Regrets are Killing Me”，而再后面一首，则叫做“I’ll See You When We’re Both Not So Emotional”（老实说，这一队人挺有幽默感的）。事实上AF正在表达一种一切都快要发生，所以没有能力再保持现状的感受，而这就不是那种青春的或是“令人看穿的”亦或是虚伪的感受。
American Football was released in September of 1999, which lends the album a real-time immediacy: the lyrics begin in June and end in August, surely a powerful period of time for teenagers and college-bound kids (American Football were University of Illinois students at the time). Unless you’re a teacher or NFL player, though, the typical adult's day-to-day doesn’t change all that much during the summer—it’s hotter, there are dumber movies in the theater, and that's about it. And yet, those same see-through teenage feelings can still manifest during the change of the seasons, regardless of age; there are many reasons “Indian Summer” is one of the most frequently covered indie rock songs, and similarly we're only now beginning to recognize how American Football struck an emotional chord, one that’s proven to be every bit as resonant.