I have a confession, I’ve been obsessed with the American Anymen album Cities Changing Names for months now. With each listen, I find something new I like. There is something very intriguing about the album and there is something about the album that just sends an ear worm down deep into your aural canal that hooks onto your brain and feeds on it.
Or perhaps, instead, Cities Changing Names feeds the brain.
I originally wanted to do a track by track review of the album and as I started writing the review, I realised my track by track opinion would not be honouring the album nor the effort that American Anymen put into the album.
Here’s the one negative thing I’ll say about the album: occasionally my ear will get pulled away by the repetitiveness layering effect of certain sounds or vocals. It’s almost like an echo gone wrong. “The echo” as I call it, distracts my attention away in those songs, but the strength of music and lyrics pull me back to where I should be and that’s one of the things that makes this album brilliant.
Cities Changing Names is a chaotic and violent tornado of passion, defiance, and standing up instead of backing down.
For me, American Anymen‘s Cities Changing Names is the belligerent and beautiful love child of Ministry‘s Pslam 69 and Nine Inch Nails‘ Pretty Hate Machine.
The album is whip smart.
Bold and in your face.
A friend yet sometimes a foe.
Cities Changing Names is not an album for anyone that continues to hide behind ignorance and hate and remains inactive, but it is for anyone that sees the world and is not okay with how it is going and is ready to fight.
I connected with “Fentanyl Death Kiss” at first listening. The song hits very close to home for me, reminding me how lucky I am to have someone close to me survive fentanyl’s death grip but it was also a stark reminder that the opioid crisis is a reality and not a movie fantasy and they could have easily succumbed to fentanyl.
The self titled track “Cities Changing Names” is aggressive, loud, in your face and pointing its finger in your chest like military drill sergeant. “Destroy Interesting” and “The Status Quo is a Paper Tiger” also land in the tribe of heavy and aggressive. Both bringing the fists in the air and the head banging against the wall.
“Contact Sheets” in an absolute bop and a massive ear worm. Its predecessor “Escalator” continues the ear worm trend as does “Die, I Live”
“KTKWTKS” is lyrically one of my favourite songs on the track and this lyric could not be more timely: “As a message to the people who loves guns more than people…”
While, American Anymen are far from the late 70’s British punk scene, their song “Countercultures of the World” is a wonderful mix of punk and heavy metal. I can easily hear the Sex Pistols covering this song or it being a song they could have hoped to write.
FAVOURITE TRACK: tie between “Contact Sheets” and “KTKWTKS”
MUST LISTEN TRACK: tie between “KTKWTKS” and “Cities Changing Names”
RATING OUT OF 5 ROCK HANDS: 4 🤘🤘🤘🤘
This album continues to impress me witch each listen and Pretty Vacant One was fortunate to sit down with American Anymen‘s Brett Sullivan to discuss Cities Changing Names.
PVO: How different was it developing the sound of Cities Changing Names to earlier works?
BRETT: Overall the process was very different than what is usually done on an album. I usually write songs on an acoustic guitar and bring them to the people I’m playing with at the time. After a while the songs end up coming together during rehearsals and shows and we start grouping them together to record. People have developed parts and we record those parts. This album was written on an electric guitar, and it is also an entirely different genre than our last few recordings. So instead of having a group of people make parts over a period of time, I had parts written and asked people to play them. The drummer was familiar with industrial metal and death metal but myself and the bass player had to learn to adapt to that style. We had two singles prior to this album that were getting progressively heavier so that helped in getting ready for the recording and mixing process.
PVO: Cities Changing Names speaks to a lot of what is wrong or going wrong in the world, as creators, do
you have hope that it will get better?
BRETT: The world is on a suicide march right now. The vision of the future is a horror movie and will be much worse than we think it will be. Entire sections of the world, mostly in the Global South, will be written off and the people living there will be left on their own to survive. The better off countries will make bigger walls and develop more militarized borders. The struggle of the future will be a fight for dwindling food supplies and the mass migration of the people living in these food insecure areas towards the better off sections of the world. We already see people fleeing from violence, starvation, joblessness, and lack of stability. This will only get worse as the environmental disaster takes grip. I do believe that all this can be changed, I just don’t believe that any substantial changes can be made within the confines of the system we are living under. The system of capitalist/imperialism organizes the world into competitions for the resources we need to survive. This competition takes place between Nation States as well as all of us on an individual scale. If this system was changed, then we could have a chance to change the future.
PVO: What do you hope fans take away from Cities Changing Names?
BRETT: I don’t totally believe in art for art’s sake. I do want people to be entertained by this album and for me, the making of it was in itself a form of entertainment. I’ve always wanted to make an industrial album so going through with the process was very satisfying. But, I learned things in this process, and I was changed by writing the lyrics and trying to get them full of the content I wanted. So I hope that this learning happens to people when they listen to this album also. I know that all the songs on this project were written from the perspective of a certain class, and I hope listeners hear this perspective while getting into the actual sounds of the music.
PVO: What is in store for American Anymen and their fans?
BRETT: The band has started rehearsing again and we have a new drummer named Christian Lee. So we are going to start playing shows again soon and I hope to organize an album release show. The other thing that has been going on over the past few weeks is new recordings. Eight new songs are written and guitars and drums have been tracked.
Listen to “Expert of Nothing” and “Fentanyl Death Kiss” from Cities Changing Names below
Album Artwork and Photo Credit: Eclipse Records and American Anymen