Neck Deep have had bands trying to take their Kings Of British Pop Punk crowns pretty much since their first EP was released. And while none have been successful yet, there may be a contender to the throne in the form of Eastbourne quintet ROAM. Having already supported Neck Deep on tour, the comparisons have been coming thick and fast. But although there are similarities between the two, ROAM show they have more of a spine on debut album Backbone.
The main difference between ROAM and the majority of pop punk nowadays is their focus on the heavier side of things. Lead single Deadweight is a good example, combining more classic pop punk with full-throttle, deafening riffs. Even poppier offerings like All The Same can’t hide ROAM’s darker, more intense side, and it’s moments where it’s displayed to its full potential where they’re at their most original.
But despite the clear USP they have here, most of Backbone isn’t unique at all. In fact, there probably hasn’t been a pop punk album released with this many clichés for years. Hoppus and Delonge-like dual vocals from Alex Adam and Alex Costello, both of which are overly accented (although the British tinge does come through every once in a while) and completely murder acoustic ballad Tracks in cold blood. The most annoying cliché though, is the constant need ROAM seem to have to change the tempo of most songs every ten seconds. By the time Goodbyes, the most generic track on the record, rolls around, it’s more tempting to roll your eyes and hit the skip button than give it the time of day.
There are some great moments on Backbone. The catch is that they’re all times when ROAM step back from the banality and try something new. Hopeless Case feels more straightforward due to the lack of tempo changes, but is one of the best proper rock songs on this album. The same goes for epic closer Leaving Notice, which is an example of what the lads could achieve with a bit more development. RIP In Peace also stands out for being different in the best way, as well as electric guitar ballad Tell Me, which more than pays homage to blink-182. Opener The Desmond Show is worth a mention too, using a jumpy radio introduction at the start of the record. It’s the humour so often used on pop punk albums pulled off brilliantly without resorting to childishness.
Although the number of clichés on Backbone are seemingly endless, one not really present is catchiness. Not one song has a memorable hook, which wouldn’t be a problem if ROAM weren’t clearly trying too hard to be The Most Pop Punk Band Ever. It’s disappointing, because their leaning towards the heavy side of things and comprehensive non-accented vocals shown on Bloodline could actually set them on the path to something great. ROAM are clearly a band in limbo like their counterparts Neck Deep a couple of years ago. If ROAM settle on what kind they want to be and replicate the stronger songs from Backbone on its follow-up, then Neck Deep may well have serious competition. But for now, all this album is going to do is get ROAM lost at sea.
For fans of: Neck Deep, Boston Manor, Seaway
Words by Georgia Jackson
‘Backbone’ by ROAM is out now on Hopeless Records.