“Uncomfortably Numb” is rooted in the classic emo-rock melodies American Football has come to dominate, but with the inclusion of Paramore’s Hayley Williams, this story of growth, anguish, and unsettling revelations turns into one of the band’s finest tracks yet.
Many experience a sudden, uncomfortable shift when adulthood hits. Despite reaching the high point of life, it’s hard not to feel so low. The days get shorter yet the minutes always feel longer, giving way to an uneasiness that unrelentingly suffocates those caught in its grasp. Adulthood, for some, is a confusing, chaotic mess – the very opposite of what many see in their youth. With “Uncomfortably Numb,” American Football embarks on one of their most personal tracks to date, exploring the naïveté of youth and the pits they have fallen into as they have aged.
Listen: “Uncomfortably Numb” – American Football
This latest cut from the band’s third full-length album provides a window into their lives, capturing this state of mind they have that has ultimately hindered them in more ways than one. With “Silhouettes,” listeners were given a taste of the new and expanded soundscapes the band has been discussing, and “Uncomfortably Numb” continues to provide just that. A quick drumbeat sets the track in motion with inviting guitar riffs following soon after. It brings about this shimmering effect, almost joyful in a way, creating this stark dichotomy between the melody and lyrics.
I can’t feel a thing inside
I blamed my father in my youth
Now as a father, I blame the booze
I have become uncomfortably numb
One of the first lines lead singer Mike Kinsella gently mutters is about his dark state of mind, discussing his views during his childhood that he is now living out, much to his dismay. Soon after the first verse, Paramore’s Hayley Williams joins with a weary hint to her vocals. Her lines act like a conversation she’s having with Kinsella; a person who has tried everything to help, but all of it in vain. During Williams’ verse, she bellows out in defeat, creating a sharp pain with every word sung. There’s heartbreak behind the words, and also regret.
As the track continues, Kinsella and Williams begin to harmonize in a gorgeous fashion. It’s a constant back and forth between the two, both enduring the same experiences, the same story, but through opposite lenses. This dynamic adds a new layer to the track that brings an onrush of emotion that clings to listeners even after the music has stopped. With its final line, it becomes evident the protagonist has succumbed to the pitfalls of life, showing that not everything has a happy ending.
We were gentle to begin
When I pushed you around to break you in
Now whenever I try to be clear with you
I only end up feeling see-through
I’ve tried, but you’ve won
Comatose, like father like son
The story told in this track was turned visual with director Atiba Jefferson. Viewers are given a first-person perspective of the story’s protagonist, unconscious and laying in the dirt. He’s soon transported into an ambulance where EMTs begin treating him. As Williams’ verses begin, her character shows up, the camera shifting perspectives which mirror the track in a perfect manner. The closing shot is them surrounded by hundreds of other ambulances, implying he’s one of many who has fallen low.
“Uncomfortably Numb” is a narrative of a man having to face not only his demons but the loved ones in his life who he has failed, yet despite the simple concept, American Football turned it into one of their most honest, heartbreaking tracks. Their musical evolution has provided a lot of character into the track, making the warm guitars and drum beats blend expertly with the dark, somber story that is sung. And with Williams’ inclusion on it, a new tier of musicality for the band was achieved. They have already left their sonic footprint in 2019 with this track, and their upcoming album will surely elevate them even higher.
— — — —
? © Atiba Jefferson