Australia has garnered some sort of reputation concerning its recent musical output. Apart from the obvious exceptions, a fair percentage of new, Antipodian acts tend to fall into the same line of beatdown-sodden moshcore that prioritises heft over actual musical dimension. What’s more, these acts all seem to be held in the same musical corral of UNFD, leaving it as one of the least diverse labels currently in operation. As such, it’s not entirely unreasonable when faced with Columbus, Brisbane trio and recent UNFD signees, to feel some form of apprehension.
And then roughly a few seconds into their debut full-length Spring Forever, such apprehension rapidly dissipates. For a start, Columbus are much more indebted to the gruffer end of pop-punk, and though it’s nothing groundbreaking, this album stands as one of the best pop-punk albums released so far this year. It hits every bar this sort of thing should with enormous, lung-bursting anthems and instrumentals packed with spit and grit, all done with the highest level of passion and cutting emotion. Naturally, this means that Columbus gravitate towards the more mature side of pop-punk, with the likes of Daffodil and the roaring Stay offering some meaty pathos rather than radio pop hooks, and frontman Alex Moses stealing the show with his ragged, world-weary vocals. Spring Forever finds its catchiness through more substantial, personal content, such as in the self-deprecating Broken Glass or the anguish present in Replace Me.
What pushes Spring Forever into greatness though, is its commitment and exploration of its narrative arc. It’s a fairly standard relationship story but with a fresh dimension added – the protagonist falls for his love interest in the bright opening chords of Summer Dress, before the relationship hits a rocky patch in Say What You Want before subsequently ending in the acoustic Nervous Wreck (it’s worth noting that the acoustic framing of this song is absolutely perfect at capturing the melancholy and hurt in Moses’ voice). The protagonist then experiences his regret in the following tracks, reaching its peak in the red-raw desperation of Absent, before the closing title track sees him coming to terms with his emotions, realising it was never going to work and walking away, the closing line of the album being “We were never gonna stay together / It can’t be spring forever”. It’s a decidedly thoughtful, level-headed approach to such a bog-standard topic, and already shows Columbus as being far more nuanced in the songwriting that their young years would suggest.
Already, it would seem as though Columbus are prepped for something massive. With an opening gambit as strong as this, it’d be hard not to think that. Spring Forever is everything that a pop-punk album should be in 2016 – gutsy, emotionally charged and bursting at the seams with anthemic goodness. Unlike most of their labelmates, it seems as though Columbus actually know how to make an impression with their music, and if Spring Forever is anything to go by for the future, expect that impression to be a very long-lasting one.
For fans of: The Wonder Years, Taking Back Sunday, Polar Bear Club
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Spring Forever’ by Columbus is released on 26th August on UNFD.