REVIEW: All-American

All-American crushes you with the weight of 21st century living. Then it makes you laugh at its mundanity and madness.

BUFFET at the DoHo. Photo by John Ellison.
From (L) to (R): Dick Turner (vocals), Nick Rennis (guitar), John Van Deusen (bass, vocals), Braydn Krueger (drums).

BUFFET has unleashed a blistering debut that’s as absurd as it is vital. Vacillating from pedestrian observations to political commentary, the Anacortes supergroup (comprised of members of The Lonely Forest, R. Turner & The Drink Up, Honey) bursts at the seams with rage and color. Recorded at The Unknown, All-American is fast, noisy punk that’s visceral and larger than life. The record shreds through fourteen tracks in 29 minutes, and it’s a blood-pumping thrill from front to back.

All-American features properly-recorded versions of most of the tracks from BUFFET’s self-titled EP, and these old favorites take on new life without losing the fervor of the old garage recordings. “DoHo,” an anthem for the Donut House in Anacortes and “the small-town blues,” remains an essential BUFFET track. Richer layering makes songs like “IDKU” and “Family Dinner” feel even more intense than before.

All-American is at its very best in the opening salvo of “Land,” “Too Many Things,” and “Victim.” The first track is a furious condemnation of xenophobia. It escalates to an oppressing roar that gives way to lead single “Too Many Things,” an anarchic rallying cry to shun the glut of media and entertainment we use as a shelter and a mask. “Victim” hilariously lampoons the white male victim complex, with Dick Turner’s vocals yelping to a sarcastic peak. He almost sounds pathetic, which was undoubtedly the goal.

Things aren’t always this serious and grim, though. “NY Slice” is an ode to craving authentic New York pizza. “4 Brides for 4 Guys,” the record’s shortest and most intentionally funny song, is just about how all the band members are married and have day jobs. Closing track “That’s What Dick Says” features guitarist Nick Rennis reciting his bandmate’s various catchphrases and inanities as bassist John Van Deusen repeats the titular refrain.

The juxtaposition of the mindful and seemingly mindless is the key point of the record, culminating most obviously in the title track. Turner lists memorable features of America in 2019 — good and bad — in the same breath as foods one might find in a buffet. It’s a perfect metaphor for life In the USA. We have the opportunity to indulge in simple hobbies and pleasures (“My Favorite Things”), but are also beset with wanton consumerism (“I Like to Shop”) and a rampant military-industrial complex (“Big Bomb”). Our country is a mixed bag, and bad apples apparently surface more and more prominently. But, for better and worse, we’re stuck with this whole mess, and the moments in our life with the most gravity happen right alongside some of the moments with the least. Sometimes we want to run our head through a wall. Sometimes the best we can do is shrug.

9.0/10

Buy or stream All-American below, available April 19, 2019. See BUFFET live this weekend in Seattle (4/18, Hot Yoga House), Anacortes (4/19, Bikestop), or Orcas Island (4/20, Alder Vulture).

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