Chad Gilbert has always been the most prolific member of New Found Glory. Stints in hardcore bands Shai Hulud and Hazen Street have run concurrent with his job as guitarist of the pop-punk legends, as well as taking up roles as producer extraordinare and manager of Bridge Nine imprint Violently Happy. Now with his solo project What’s Eating Gilbert, he’s added another string to his ever-burgeoning bow, as well as showing another style that he can ably pull off.
That title is a misnomer – there is a heavy focus on music’s past, taking big, unsubtle power-pop blended with ’50s pop for something much lighter than anything he’s previously done. Given the historical reference point, the lyrical content is incredibly simple (some may even say asinine) but to take it at face value would be missing the point. Instead, That New Sound… should ideally be viewed in the same light as something like Happy Days – a stylised, rose-tinted view of the period that may give way to cliché, but does so in a way to make it as palatable as possible. Songs like You’re The Most and From The Start are bubbly and hugely infectious, while The Way She Loves Me would crack a smile on even the stoniest faces. It’s a much simpler, lighthearted prospect that Gilbert’s day job in New Found Glory, but if nothing else, it shows that his songwriting nouse has made a seamless transition between both projects.
That New Sound… also impresses in the way it navigates around tweeness. It’s a definite danger – the majority of the album is written about Gilbert’s infatuation with his fiancé / Paramore vocalist Hayley Williams (who also provides backing vocals on the album). Similar projects have fallen victim, Perma (Say Anything’s Max Bemis and Eisley’s Sherri DuPree-Bemis) comes to mind. Fortunately, Gilbert’s is different, with chunky guitars always staying well away from mawkish territory.
Still, while Gilbert is quite clearly loved-up, the narrow scope of topics on offer often makes That New Sound… seem incredibly repetitive, with similar themes being repeated for a massive portion of the album’s runtime. Not only that, but the lack of room for musical experimentation also makes for a frustratingly samey listen. It’s in songs like Bad Mood, songs where different lyrical topics are explored, that sees Gilbert shine the brightest. These moments are few and far between though, and even though That New Sound… doesn’t have an excessively long runtime, the feeling of disproportionateness throughout is unavoidable.
Nevertheless, That New Sound… establishes Gilbert as a fine solo musician in his own right. Whether a change is called for in lyrical focus on any future releases remains to be seen (though an early estimate would suggest that it would), but for now, there’s enough to get him by. Not enough to rival New Found Glory by any means, but enough to make it a stopgap worthy of attention.
For fans of: Candy Hearts, Hostage Calm, Mixtapes
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘That New Sound You’re Looking For’ by What’s Eating Gilbert is out now on Bridge Nine / Violently Happy Records