There is no one in rock music more polarising than 5 Seconds Of Summer. Either you’re a diehard fan of their cheeky, cheerful pop rock, or run to turn the radio off whenever you hear the first note of She Looks So Perfect. The four-piece’s reputation may have been tainted in a lot of people’s eyes due to their stint as support act for One Direction, but inspiration from Green Day, blink-182 and other massive rock bands shone through on their debut. And with new album Sounds Good Feels Good just released, it’s clear they’re hoping to further establish themselves as a proper rock band.
And the rock songs on this album certainly do have more of an edge than the tween-pop sound of the debut. Opener Money is nothing short of a carefree rock song with a huge chorus, and the likes of Permanent Vacation and Fly Away pay homage to bands like Sum 41 and All Time Low. Sure, the poppy sound is still there, but it’s obvious that’s not the only side to 5SOS’s sound.
Despite this, though, too many of the songs on Sounds Good Feels Good are underpinned by bland simplicity, nursery rhyme-sounding vocal patterns, and infantile lyrics. It’s sadly a bit more annoying than charming, and pretty much every song has something for everyone to be irritated by. Couple this with the fact that the band’s vocalists have more than a few pitchy instances and it seems more like an accurate representation of them rather than a few dismissible off moments. Single Hey Everybody! is the perfect embodiment of this, taking more than a pinch of Duran Duran’s Hungry Like The Wolf and feeling uncomfortably strained in terms of supposed effortless happiness. And Jet Black Heart’s basic melodies make its clumsy lyrics the main focus, disappointingly taking away from one of the records stronger tracks.
But the worst thing about Sounds Good Feels Good is the range of slow paces making up its majority. Permanent Vacation is arguably the only track among the 14 which considerably picks up the pace. The others all range from mid-tempo to plodding, with varying amounts of bite. But it’s all a bit too lackadaisical for a supposed pop-punk album, and anyone expecting one should look elsewhere. In terms of experimentation, 5SOS get ten out of ten, with synth use and string accompaniments making more than a few appearances. But it’s a lot less for consistency, with acoustic ballads Invisible and San Francisco wetter than the Pacific, and the pointless joining together what sounds like two songs in closer Outer Space / Carry On making anyone listening feel every second of its six-and-a-half minute length.
It’s annoying, if anything, because the dreamy Catch Fire and Vapor, the epic Airplanes and the large number of lush instrumental sections including the aforementioned strings show the potential 5 Seconds Of Summer have. These standouts aren’t pop punk songs either, relying heavily on keyboards, illustrating what this album could have been if things like this were focused on instead of overshadowingly childish guitar solos and lyrics about being ‘rockstars’. It’s more than clear that 5 Seconds Of Summer need to find their feet a bit more. They’ve proven they can write catchy pop rock tracks and Sounds Good Feels Good shows their potential to branch out into more electronic tinged guitar pop. But it’s just not sounding or feeling too good at the moment.
For fans of: All Time Low, Good Charlotte, One Direction
Words by Georgia Jackson
‘Sounds Good Feels Good’ by 5 Seconds Of Summer is out now on Capitol Records.