The title and opening track to Ship of Fools by American Speedway is a no-nonsense, hard-hitting Ramones-gone-metal blitzkrieg moment that blends into a two-and-a-half-minute track they call…”American Speedway.” With both the CD title and group name branding the first two solid efforts/tracks, the album continues with a consistent and relentless high energy mix of sizzling guitars and spitfire vocals. Though stylistically a light year or two away from the aforementioned Ramones, this quartet faces the same dilemma that venerable punk band experienced — as good as this material is, and it is very good, it is firmly locked into one style with little hope for a Top 40 hit and no chance of playing to anyone outside of its realm. Which isn’t a bad thing, of course, a little integrity in the music leaves them to their own devices and “One Foot In, One Foot Out” delivers the goods — slam, bang, a no-let-up assault with vocals that Lemmy from Motörhead would probably comprehend and appreciate. “Far Behind” takes the Stooges‘ “No Fun” riff and ratchets it up a few notches. This is metal/punk, make no doubt about it, and fun is the top priority in its mission statement. “Make Some Noise” is the third of four titles marked “explicit”…”T. Rex in the tape deck…no way we’re (expletive) turning down” is not Bob Dylan, but the Beastie Boys can sure agree with the sentiment. Johnny Griswold comes in with a vintage early Alice Cooper guitar solo on an anthem in need of a good dance remix à la the Rolling Stones‘ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” (the 2008 version from the film 21). Something needs to break the boys out of their formula because punk and metal vets have heard these riffs a thousand times before. That’s not to say that the recycle isn’t worthwhile — it is — and their song “Don’t Tread on Me” could be the bands of yore telling them something they already know. “Drinkin’ & Drivin'” is said to be explicit but lead singer Michael Thursby‘s growl is indiscernible to the point where vulgarities fuse with the grunge. The song is pretty irresponsible, but part of the youth movement of any generation is to be as un-P.C. as humanly possible, a fact which doesn’t vindicate the lyrics from being totally irresponsible. There are some alternative live versions of the music here if you hunt around on the web, which is an element and luxury their predecessors never got to enjoy. Nothing goes over four minutes mark and the tongue-in-cheek nature of the attitude at play makes it all very clear, the tenth and closing track spelling it out and titled, appropriately enough, “Same Old, Same Old.” All the music on Ship of Fools is the same old, same old, and Lou Reed in his song “Hangin’ Round” might admonish “You’re still doing things I gave up years ago,” but American Speedway could care less and maintain that all-important element of fun. If the listener keeps that in mind, Ship of Fools works.
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