By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
For a decade, Fort Worth native Andrew Kenny has led some form of the American Analog Set, Austin's greatest contributor of ambient pop. But the body can only take so many cramped, smelly van drives across America, and with some members having family obligations, this coming Wednesday's stop at Trees could be one of the band's last shows.
Well, that's what the band's promotions group said, anyway--a trustable lot if there ever was one, right? On the band's Web site, Kenny tries to clear things up. "We are not breaking up," he writes. "All we wanted to do was clear up the fact that we won't be able to tour like this again." The Web site faults Tag Team Media for distributing a misunderstood press release, but it's difficult not to see the confusion as the proverbial writing on the wall.
At least on disc, folks can look forward to hearing the band ply its mellow space rock for years to come. Kenny is putting songs together for a compilation of singles and unreleased material and promises more recordings in the future. "We're still friends," he writes. "We still like making music together."
Such camaraderie can be hard to come by, especially after releasing six CDs that garnered only moderate accolades and limited sales. The anomaly of having a Texas band play such effervescent music could have limited the band's appeal. As Amazon.com succinctly put it, "If this band came from Canada instead of Texas, they'd be ballyhooed as the next big thing with critics gushing, gooing and saying 'ahhh'."
All this breakup-but-wait-not-really banter detracts from what may be the band's finest moment. Set Free, ironically the first release by an American band on the Canadian Arts and Crafts record label, is full of the catchiest trance rock the band has ever created. Opening with "Born on the Cusp" and ending with the prophetic "Fuck This...I'm Leaving," there is not a bad egg in the dozen.
With a rhythm section that emulates, of all things, prime Buckingham/Nicks-era Fleetwood Mac,Kenny's wistful tales of youthful wonder have never received such sturdy backing. Indeed, the lockstep precision and no-fault production actually add a familiarity and warmth (not to mention accessibility) missing from similar proponents of alternative pop such as Arcade Fire and Broken Social Scene.
So, will this be the last time to catch American Analog Set live? On the Web site, Kenny is uncertain, writing only "It's possible," before adding, "We may play again, here and there." All of which is disappointedly apropos: a band makes its greatest statement and fades into obscurity, content to allow solo and side projects to blossom into full-time endeavors. While regrettable, don't we all wish so many--The Who comes quickly to mind--had the wherewithal to do the same?