Opening with the grimily joyful rock of The Hop, American Werewolf Academy have a bluesy swagger that sits alongside Bruce Springsteen‘s more life-affirming efforts. Whilst Summer Ship feels like Rod Stewart at his most euphoric, jangling alt-indie guitars and hopeful backing vocals as Aaron Thedford’s wispy, croak beams ‘We found ourselves in an empty house when the shit went down!’ and his guitar and Jake Barnhart’s bass duet buoyantly.
The Kid Stays In The Picture (a nod to Hollywood producer Robert Evans) is a classic 70s rock styled tune with an easy-going sway, whilst Thedford’s vocals are soothing and energised in turn, the chorus a big unabashed grin asking ‘Why don’t you run?’ before a big summery guitar-solo propels you towards a exuberant finale. Meanwhile Rock Show Tonight is a lightweight cousin of Black Flag‘s TV Party as if covered by Jeffrey Lewis.
There’s a wide-eyed warmth to the banjo-driven Goodnight, My Pumpkin Pie, a dreamy number close in its theatrical sweetness to Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel, guitars and harmonicas arriving in the mix like a big hug from a good friend. There’s shades of Eels on Wild Birds, the combination of a driving beat and mournful strings especially reminscent of the Beautiful Freak-era, building to a big sing-a-long climax. There’s the snotty punk-rock of Beneath Your Scapula Lie Dragon Wings with its cocktail of scruffy guitar and doe-eyed backing vocals there’s an element of Maladroit-era Weezer.
Man With No Off Switch is a stand-out, with B-movie organ lines and wacky Rocky Horror-esque backing vocals squeaking in falsetto, whilst the verses shift gears with invigorating erraticism. Jack Wild is a daffy up-tempo tune that rattles along with a punchy guitar line and bursts of pleasingly kooky percussion and My Cloven Hoof is a similarly playful number, with Thedford channeling Motorhead in his yelping vocal.
Things do slump a little on the straight-forward Good Night For Anything, a decent if familiar feeling rock song with a rather dreary Status Quo-like chorus. Penultimate track What’s Shakin’, Dr. Wizard? is a ramshackle and raucous little indie-pop song, which despite its hi-speed frenzy does, again, bare strange comparison to Rod Stewart, in a good way though. The record comes to a close with Welcome To The Academy a big, brash, dumb, fun rock-song that feels like a Billy Idol take on Fight For Your Right, sing-a-long ‘Oh yeah!’ backing vocals whilst Thedford hollers ‘Be anything you want be!’ It’s a fittingly fun theme song for the band and a lively, moshable end to this album.
This LP is a collection of songs almost entirely drawn from three previous releases, but the songs sit together excellently and cohesively, creating a perfect anthology and introduction to this entertaining trio.