Apart from bands like All Time Low, who have truly made it in terms of mainstream success and are one of the biggest rock bands in the world, it seems that pop rock is dying out in the alternative scene today. Look at Mayday Parade for instance. Known for their super emotional lyrics and being the most ballad-heavy modern rock band around, they’ve obviously realised the decline in their original genre recently. So new fifth album Black Lines is a complete reinvention. Brand New and Taking Back Sunday producer Mike Sapone is at the helm here, and it’s clear he’s had a lot more influence than a few words of wisdom here and there. Gone is the happy-go-lucky (slash slightly depressing) Mayday Parade of old, and in its place lies a more with-the-times emo outfit.
Thinking about it, it seems like a logical development for the quintet’s sound due to their typical lyrical themes regarding love and loss, and most recent album Monsters In The Closet seeing them delve into deeper, darker territory. But it’s a development that will take some getting used to, particularly for diehard fans of their more upbeat work. Opener One Of Them Will Destroy The Other throws us right into the deep end with a driving bass line, grungy guitar riffs and a significantly less accessible than usual chorus helped along by Real Friends’ Dan Lambton – a perfect fit due to his raspy vocals. And the changes Mayday Parade have made become more and more prominent. Vocalist Derek Sanders explores the lower-pitched side of his voice here, and it ranges from vulnerable whispers to furious growls. Black Lines’ lyrics are also less cheerful than they have ever been before, such as “I’m that cut that won’t heal up” from the more confrontational Let’s Be Honest. But that’s not to say it’s all change, as acoustic offering Letting Go and super positive closer One Of Us (complete with gang chant bridge) prove, showcasing every shade of Mayday Parade’s sound.
But all of this is a big change, and having to take time to get used to such a shift is sadly Black Lines’ biggest downfall. It feels like so many ideas have been crammed into twelve songs (which isn’t a huge amount) making the whole thing seem chaotic and amateurish; disappointing for a band set to celebrate their ten year anniversary in a matter of weeks. The more subdued Narrow leaves confusion instead of the presumably intended wonderment by starting off as quiet and atmospheric before launching into angry and harsh. Both halves of the track are great, but don’t fit together at all. Even the aforementioned tracks emulating older Mayday Parade are lacklustre, sounding too saccharine and bland to fit on any of their previous records.
It’s clear that Black Lines is a transition album for Mayday Parade. They are courageously finding their feet in a new scene where they may well encounter a few sceptics. And although there are a lot of growing pains on this record, there are gems like Hollow and Look Up And See Infinity, Look Down And See Nothing which show the potential they may be able to achieve in the new emo scene in a few albums time. But there is a lot of filler on Black Lines, which is perhaps to be expected with a revamp this drastic. It’s difficult to predict the reception this album will receive, but one thing’s for sure – as soon as they have honed and tailored their craft to emo, Mayday Parade could be as successful there as they were in pop rock.
For fans of: Brand New, Citizen, Real Friends
Words by Georgia Jackson
‘Black Lines’ by Mayday Parade is released on 9th October on Fearless Records.