Detroit natives and siblings that comprise the rock band Art in America released a new album more than 30 years after the first. In addition, the band has a “from the vault” collection from circa 1984 that they will release as an album called “CloudBorn.” According to an announcement on the band’s website, it is due out in the fall of 2018.
The first 21st century recording by Art in America is called “The Hentschel Sessions.” It is named after the producer, David Hentschel from England who reached out to them and wanted to work with the band. Hentschel is known for his work with Genesis and other bands.
But before the 21st century, “Art in America” was a progressive band with a song named after itself. But the group still has an ardent following.
“Art in America” by Art in America
The band’s song “Art in America” received moderate play on Music Television. The moody, angst-laden song incorporates a harp into a commentary on the lack of definition of art.
Chris, Dan and Shishonee Flynn are the main members of Art in America. In the early 1980s, they were joined by Jim Kuha on bass. The band formed in 1980, and “Art in America” was released in 1983.
In a Michigan Public Radio interview, the siblings recount how the Los Angeles “pay to play scene” did not suit the band when they tried to make a go of it in 1985-86.
It is worth noting what is new with Art in America, because for some parts of the US, there was little coverage about the band and what they were trying to accomplish. Instead, a video was shown that was a bit quiet compared to more popular bands. To make things more challenging, the video was not shown as often as some others, and the song received no airplay in certain parts of the country. In short, it was difficult to figure out exactly what Art in America was trying to do. Further, and to top it all off, their signature song was named after the band. Which then raises a question, is the “art in America” to which the song refers about actual “art” or is it about the band?
The sound of “Art in America”
The song opens with a dazzling harp run. The kind of sound that a filmmaker might want to use to indicate that time and space dimensions are changing, or that the perspective will be from space now. It is a sound that gets a rock audience’s attention, as it is not as if there is an abundance of popular songs that make effective use of harps. After a few measures though, the harp gives way to a guitar and keyboard exchange whose notes seem to jump during the chorus. There is a triplet that gets repeated throughout that depending on audience’s tastes, is either a cool motif or something less stellar than that.
The song itself sounds as though it is about the contrast between what passes for art in modern America (billboards) and what the narrator considers art.
As the song continues, it sounds a bit like Rush-lite, and that’s okay. In its prime, it was a near-perfect commentary on a subject that wasn’t discussed often enough in popular music. Even then, audiences could tell that Art in America was a thinking person’s band, and there weren’t enough of those, either.
Despite the hiatus, it seems as though the Flynn siblings are back. Their self-titled hit reached No. 23 in 1983. It will be interesting to see how the band’s new material fares.