The Tressels American Midnight Review

The Tressels American Midnight Album CoverTHE TRESSELS are one of my favorite local products. They bill themselves from Tresselmania, but as we all know, that's in PA. A town with that name can only exist in the Commonwealth.

THE TRESSELS have embarked on an ambitious series of records they call The American Series. First released was American Sunset in 2011. That album saw the band pushing the boundaries of their own musicianship, but it's not until American Midnight that we see just how far THE TRESSELS have come as musicians.

American Midnight is 
THE TRESSELS at their most vulnerable. Songs about hopelessness and hope guide the listener through a gamut of emotions in only six songs in a bit under 20 minutes. American Midnight could be called THE TRESSELS Achtung Baby.

Achtung Baby saw U2 become a bit darker and introspective lyrically than their previous efforts. The album also saw the influence of alternative rock, industrial, and electronic dance music infused into their music. This parallels 
THE TRESSELS American Midnight work. How? Let's dissect this quick six song album.

Motel Bible is the first song on the album. The song has a heavy low distortion with a strong chugging on the lead guitar. This guitar riff does a great job of pulling the heavy burden felt by youth. The second guitar (the rhythm) incorporates a simplier, lighter tone over top the thick chugging lead guitar. This duo of guitar riffs weave a sense of hope among lyrics like "Let's go back to the place where we know we are loved." The subtle percussion by Mickey Reds shows how he has grown throughout the career of the band. Reds hits the quarter and half notes impeccably with his maracas. In the past, it seemed to be haphazardly done.

But it is the use of string effects through midi that elevates Motel Bible to a different musical plane than 
THE TRESSELS are used to. These effects provide a deeper and resonant, emotional song. At two minutes and 53 seconds, Motel Bible packs a punch.

The second song Nothin' But Your Love begins similiarly to U2's Zoo Station. It has the light electronic sound experimentation, but quickly turns into an entirely different song. The song fades from that electronic vibe into an alternative meets country toe tapper with a catchy, sing-song chorus.

The use of new instruments layers each song with a depth unseen by the band before. Take a song like My Brother Called. This song is about losing someone you love due to distance, witnesses Big Dirty taking Big Risks. He plays the mandolin, the lap steel and the slide guitar all on this song. This is the best country song, 
THE TRESSELS have created. From the song subject to the musical arrangement and the stronger Butch Tressel vocals; the song has it all. It's an ambitious tune that I didn't know the band had in them. 

I would like to say that American Midnight is 
THE TRESSELS at their best, but this isn't THE TRESSELS I know. This is a mature, boundary pushing, and sophisticated band. Gone are the days of songs about Prison Wine, Motorcycles, and Ethyl Alcohol. In are profound themes of love, loss, and helplessness accompanied by the emotions that go with those themes.

To quote the song from Saved By the Bell the College Years
THE TRESSELS are standing at the edge of tomorrow, today. It's up to them where they go from here.

U2 released a self-indulgent electronic mess (Zooropa) after Achtung Baby. I don't know where 
THE TRESSELS go from here, but I would hate to see them not continuing to push themselves musically, attempting to orchestrate and incorporate new sounds and experimentation into their music, and tackling big themes.

You can buy THE TRESSELS American Midnight for five bucks (FLAC, MP3 320) from their website. I can't recommend this six song EP highly enough. It's beautifully mixed and mastered by Mike Tarsia and the production quality is outstanding. Production quality credit goes to Brian Sarkisian. Not a detail was overlooked on the production of American Midnight, which only helps to create a lasting album and a turning point for THE TRESSELS

BnR Rating 5

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  • 2/7/2013 8:49 PM P. Niz Envee wrote:
    Good review but you didn't mention the new bass player, Fuzz Tressel. In my opinion, he is by far the funkiest bass player that they've ever had and certainly possesses the most musicality. His presence is certainly felt on this record and if the Tressels are smart, they will continue to utilize his contributions.
    Reply to this
    1. 2/7/2013 9:49 PM Craig Wettner wrote:
      This is a great point. There was so much more I wanted to call out about this record that I almost want to do a second review. The piano work on the track Autumn is hauntingly 80s. Great sound not yet heard on the Tressels back catalog.

      I just ran out of room and time. I decided to hit the things I believe people (unfamiliar with the band) would catch upon first and second listens.

      Thanks for bringing the point up in the comments.
      Reply to this
    2. 3/3/2013 2:09 AM jon wrote:
      Very interesting observation! I noticed the difference since Black Houdini left and this guy 'Fuzz' took over. Definitely seems a more musically sophisticated bassist - not that BH wasn't good - just he seemed a little more basic, whereas the bass lines on My Brother Called and Rock n Roll Dreams seem more accomplished.
      Reply to this

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