American Standard – “Wonderland”

American Standard was a punk band form New Jersey in the 1980s and 90s that released a couple of albums and EPs, the first of which was 1989s Wonderland. I stumbled across this one the other day at Jive Time Records, and while the cover certainly didn’t scream punk rock, that little crate-diggin’ voice in my head told me to give this one a spin on the store table. Which turned out to be a good move.

Tangent Alert! If you’re going to have a used record shop, it’s pretty much obligatory to have at least one turntable available for your customers to listen to their potential purchases on. Unfortunately the quality of these tables varies considerably. One of my favorite shops, Easy Street in Seattle, had a major P.O.S. listening station – the platter wobbled so band that sometimes the arm would come clean off the record. My friends at Jive Time, however, have two very serviceable decks hooked into good tuners and, perhaps most importantly, decent headphones! I know the equipment will take a bit of a beating, but seriously – I’m more likely to listen to stuff if your equipment is serviceable (and your headphones look like you might actually clean them). And if I can listen, I’m more likely to buy – especially for discs $10 and more. I’m just sayin’.

I’ve seen American Standard described as hardcore, but I’m not buying that at all. Man, I’m not even 100% sure I’d slap the punk label on these guys. Don’t get me wrong – Wonderland is an impressive album. But to me this sounds a lot more like fast hard rock than punk. Am I splitting hairs here worrying about labeling genres? Maybe. But I want you, my much appreciated reader, to know what you’re getting should you run across this nugget. Amazon may actually have this one right classifying these guys as “Alternative”. Regardless of the what we call them, the musicianship is solid and the songs are well structured and tight. The 10 tracks come in at a very punk 28 minutes, which is impressive when you take a look at the enclosed lyric sheet and realize how how much is crammed into each song.

The truth is right there,
Can you see it?
Throw me your crutches
Cause you won’t need them.
Can be a struggle,
But we can do it.
Show me your mountain
And we can move it!

Side B feels faster to me, with “Superficial” as arguably the most punk track on the album. There are punk, metal, and hard rock influences here, and American Standard brings them all together to produce a strong, hard sound, but doing so without disintegrating into noise. Regardless of what label you want to put on the band, I’m impressed with Wonderland and it most certainly will move towards the top of the stack of vinyl to be burned to mp3.

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