The Soundboard Stereo – April 2017

Over the course of April, we’ve seen huge new releases from Mastodon, Falling In Reverse, While She Sleeps, The Maine and loads more, and given our verdict on them all. Away from that though – and in this month’s Stereo – we’ve looked back at Paramore’s best release to date, one of the most divisive and fascinating albums from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and a time where Twenty One Pilots were yet to become the megastars they are today.

Twenty One Pilots – Vessel

A quip about how everyone reading this knows who Twenty One Pilots are by now and probably either love them or hate them is almost certainly futile. The duo on everyone’s lips are currently riding the wave of Blurryface (an album that has transcended countless genre boundaries, committing unthinkable sonic combinations to a recorded form) but predecessor Vessel represents much more narrow ambitions. The genre-mashing foundation is there but condensed into a more synth-driven sound – something that more than suits them. The way it’s done feels slightly anaemic compared to Blurryface, (there’s a lot more filler, like House Of Gold and Fake You Out, and a few instances of experimentation don’t land as well as they possibly could), but when it’s right, it’s really right. Holding Onto You, Car Radio and Trees are all truly anthemic, with the euphoric breaks of the latter two enough to totally transfix and be sucked into, be it through headphones or live. Ode To Sleep, while being one of the less palatable things they’ve released, could possibly be the Twenty One Pilots track which best illustrates their overall sound. Blurryface is still the benchmark in terms of Twenty One Pilots’ discography thus far, and while there are gems on here, Vessel is something to solidify that fact. • GJ

Choice tracks: Holding Onto You, Guns For Hands, Trees

Paramore – Paramore

So while Paramore continue to hype up the release of their fifth album, it’s worth revisiting this, their best album to date. A contentious opinion, maybe, but its release back in 2013 would cement what would then be considered their post-Farro brothers era. And they pulled it off with a pop-rock diamond that holds up every bit as well today. Despite how divisive it is, splitting fans who were yet to be swayed by their poppiest direction, everything that makes Paramore the powerhouse they are is present on this album – the gigantic singalong anthems (Now and Daydreaming); moments of 24 carat joy (Still Into You and Ain’t It Fun); the downbeat, pensive tearjerker (Hate To See Your Heart Break) – all tied together with a candy coating and driven by the irrepressible dynamo that is Hayley Williams. For pop-rock in this vein, Paramore is a near flawless example, polished and methodical but with enough meat to keep it grounded. It’s the band’s crowning moment, and if After, Laughter is anything close to this, we’re in for a real treat. • LN

Choice picks: Ain’t It Fun, Still Into You, Fast In My Car

Florence + The Machine – Lungs

Florence + The Machine may be a Glastonbury-headlining, world-famous entity now, but their early days were definitely the more interesting part of their career. Debut album Lungs is a far cry from their polished later albums, mainly in how it divulges in weird and wonderful folklore and lyrical analogies. Love is a topic often described in relation to our most innately animalistic urges – see Howl or Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up) – and putting other general dark themes under the microscope (the Poe-style Girl With One Eye springs to mind) makes up some of the most hugely original and thought-provoking material not just in Florence + The Machine’s career, but in indie music in the last decade. Lungs is perhaps the only Florence + The Machine album that explicitly sounds like a full-band effort. More recent releases seem to be tailored to show off frontwoman and cultural icon Florence Welch’s talents, whereas Lungs‘ instrumentation (particularly Tom Monger’s harp) has much more character than that of a backing band. While the current incarnation of Florence + The Machine are achieving much loftier goals than their debut could’ve pointed towards, Lungs is organic, genuinely creative, and without a doubt one of the best debut albums of the last few years. • GJ

Choice picks: Howl, Cosmic Love, Blinding

Red Hot Chili Peppers – One Hot Minute

As divisive an album as it was, One Hot Minute can easily be seen as the reason that the Red Hot Chili Peppers are viewed as one of the most fascinating rock bands of the ’90s. Born from a time of turmoil – guitarist John Frusciante had left the band after the pressure of fame had become too much for him, while frontman Anthony Kiedis relapsed during the writing process – its movement into darker, heavier territory, in no small part due to the recruitment of Jane’s Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro as Frusciante’s replacement, led to One Hot Minute being a critical and commercial failure, especially after the whirlwind smash Blood Sugar Sex Magick, with even the band themselves virtually disowning the album to this day. But is that really justified? After all, One Hot Minute is possibly the best example in the ‘Chili Peppers’ back catalogue of them being able to adapt with their surroundings. In this case, that comes with Navarro’s metal leanings, giving tracks like the title track and the suitably-titled Warped the edge and darkness that the band’s material had been desperately lacking. While that isn’t the case all the way through – Aeroplane and Walkabout have the same snapping funk licks of the band’s best in this vein, and My Friends and Tearjerker are the more contemplative breaks in the madness, the latter serving as a tribute to Kurt Cobain – but overall, this is an album that sees the ‘Chili Peppers channeling the darkness of their own personal lives into their music more successfully than ever before. Though it’s doubtful that anyone will truly embrace One Hot Minute again, its attempted erasure from the ‘Chili Peppers’ history by both band and fans couldn’t be less justified. • LN

Choice picks: Deep Kick, Warped, One Hot Minute

Bring Me The Horizon – Sempiternal

As soon as That’s The Spirit, the Bring Me The Horizon album most synonymous with curveballs (Follow You – enough said) was brought into the picture, it’s easy to forget the shockwaves precursor Sempiternal sent through alternative music. It’s a much more streamlined release, with epic strings and gang vocals garnishing Oli Sykes’ most emotionally charged performance to date. Antivist seethes, The House Of Wolves thunders and Hospital For Souls and And The Snakes Start To Sing reflect everything from searing pain to totally giving up. While still having the edge of the Bring Me of old (guitarist Lee Malia an ever-valuable reminder of that), Sempiternal presented a much more palatable sound for many, notably with Sykes’ foray into clean vocals and an arsenal of huge stadium choruses. While the dynamic changes in genre are obviously the first things that jump to mind with this record, lyrically it’s a huge step up, too. It’s raw, close to the bone and can be unnerving to listen to at times, be it for the bleak outlook on politics and human connections, or Sykes’ personal recollection of living with a mental health condition. While this album would be the be-all-and-end-all career definer for most bands, That’s The Spirit changed that for Bring Me The Horizon. Revisiting Sempiternal, it’s clear that its lyrics and subject matter is what’s most potently stood the test of time – a standard Bring Me are yet to top. • GJ

Choice picks: The House Of Wolves, Sleepwalking, Go To Hell For Heaven’s Sake

No Doubt – Rock Steady

It’s easy to see why No Doubt’s Rock Steady could be seen as a disappointment. Compared to previous albums Return To Saturn and the smash hit that was Tragic Kingdom, it was a hard pivot away in sound, adopting a sleek, ’80s-inspired electro-pop sound buoyed by contributions from such heavyweights as Pharrell, Ric Ocasek and even Prince. And in terms of quality, this is definitely a more inconsistent album, particularly as it progresses with tracks like the bitty calypso of Start The Fire or the unrelentingly sugary Running. But at its core, Rock Steady sees No Doubt at their most cutting-edge and stylish, the natural precursor to what Gwen Stefani would go on to do, but arguably better executed in tracks like Hey Baby and Making Out. Led by the massive single Hella Good, a track which, a decade-and-a-half after its release still stands as a virtually flawless pop song, Rock Steady completely owns every divisive trait it may have. It definitely falters compared some of No Doubt’s other material, but the best moments that can be pulled from it really are pretty special. • LN

Choice picks: Hella Good, Hey Baby, Making Out

Words by Luke Nuttall (LN) and Georgia Jackson (GJ)

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