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Album Review

A mix between the gothic inner city Americana of Lions & Ghosts and the sharp songwriting of the Pixies, American Mars came roaring out of the gates with a moody debut that most weren't sure how to react to. Creating a soundtrack to the bombed-out and boarded up buildings of downtown Detroit, American Mars perfectly captured the chilly indifference of their hometown in quite an unexpected way. Singers Thomas Trimble and Karla Richardson balance their male/female dynamic wonderfully, leaving the former to take the role of the gloomy pessimist while the latter is the delicate heart behind the music. Country guitar and an earnest lyrical approach form the foundation of these songs, but the key to this sound is the way American Mars record everything with a hollow production that allows their instruments to echo and reverberate. Deceivingly gentle with an urgent edge bubbling underneath, the songs here warmly embrace their big city origins with irascible odes like the driving "Cuban Heel" and the lazy and psychedelic "Muscle Car." Likewise, their personal lives are dissected with the same clever honesty, providing tracks like the up-tempo "Queen Bee" and the gorgeous "Hourglass." Fat-free, engaging, and well-crafted, Late is an atmospheric and romantic portrait of life in late-'90s Detroit. Capturing the mood and vibe of the city far more appropriately than most bands from that era, their impending breakup (which essentially turned the band into Trimble's pet project) only makes this record that much more vital. At a time when their contemporaries were crafting a brash garage rock revival, American Mars' Late is a triumph of mood.


Formed: 1995 in Detroit, MI

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s

American Mars, from Detroit, plays an ethereal, textured brand of Americana laced with pedal steel and vocalist Thomas Trimble's frankly confessional lyrics. Influenced by moody predecessors such as Galaxie 500, Grant Lee Buffalo, and Yo La Tengo, American Mars came together in 1995. In 1997, the group recorded their debut, Late, with producer/pedal steel player David Feeny (Mule, Simon Bonney, Cathouse). Touring extensively from late 1997 into 1998, the group experienced some dissent, and at tour's...
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Late, American Mars
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