Waterparks may get a lot of flak, but a lot of the time, they don’t deserve it. Unlike many of the uber-polished pop-rock bands doing the rounds, there’s a great deal more intelligence to their writing akin to early Fall Out Boy and Panic! At The Disco, and even though they can be admittedly obnoxious at points, the fact that they have that greater attention to detail is what makes them stand out streets ahead of the competition.
So what would they be like if that intelligence was completely stripped away? Well you’d get something like Makeout, a band who’ve already been under fire for how myopic and immature they’ve come across (we’ll get to it), and with their debut full-length The Good Life, they’re not exactly helping themselves. Because, for any sort of pop-rock band for whom standing out and creating the best image for themselves should be their primary objective, The Good Life has none of that, an album that, at best, is throwaway and at worst is borderline offensive.
To be as complimentary as possible, there’s at least a couple of moments on here where Makeout hit some solid hooks and melody, most notably on Salt Lake City which has some nice bounce and speed to it, even if it’s cribbing liberally from the blink-182 and 5 Seconds Of Summer schools of thought. That comes as absolutely no surprise though, seeing as The Good Life was produced by John Feldmann and serves as a totally concise collection of every God-forsaken production trope he has under his belt. Guitars have the filmy, gelatinous sound that he’s become known for; there’s not a jagged edge in sight, going so far on Crazy to throw out instrumentation entirely in the verses for a leaden backbeat; and, on Clockwork and Ride It Out (itself feeling like a direct rip of Rise Against’s Audience Of One), the tides of millennial whoops to create the illusion of a big, crowd-pleasing vibe but are really only there as a substitute for further writing. It’s actually quite impressive how utterly bland and derivative The Good Life sounds, shunning any real instrumental personality to be like every other preened, too-polished pop-rock band in the world. After all, they’ve found success from it, so there’s no reason Makeout shouldn’t, right?
Instead, where the crème de la crème of Makeout’s personality comes through is in the writing, and it’s quite ironic that opener Childish rests on the refrain “Can we make a life that’s childlike, not childish?”, especially since most of this album reads like a child going through his first relationship and breakup, with zero self awareness of how it comes across and details that can be genuinely disgraceful. In his lyrics, frontman Sam Boxold shows a clear disinterest for any of the girls he’s become involved with or just women in general, given the uncalled-for shots fired on Lisa and the spoken word “rant” of Crazy (particularly in the case of the former with a line like “I love the way your friends say I’m a stalker / If only they’d have known that I have half their passwords too”) that both culminate in him begging for forgiveness in a way that’s supposed to be “funny” or “relatable”. Then there’s Childish and You Can’t Blame Me, where Boxold doesn’t like the girl in question staying out too late, so he proceeds to call her “childish” in the former and outright break up with her in the latter, because after all, “you can’t blame [him]”. And then, of course, there’s the infamous Secrets, a steaming turd disguised as a jaunty acoustic number that sees Boxold address his ex by means of slut-shaming, blackmail and just behaving like a general prick. It’s really no surprise that this song has already received the floods of backlash it has, but in the context of the whole album where it’s not an isolated example, it gives off the sort of noxious air that no self-respecting person should have any time for. This entire scene already has the misogynistic stigma attached to it, and songs like this only serve as unwanted evidence for that.
But what’s even worse is now Makeout try to mitigate the blows by padding this album out with songs that are designed to be heartfelt and sincere, and given the evidence of the very nadir of which they’re willing to go, those are attitudes that are impossible to buy for even a second. Boxold goes on about how he’ll always be there for his partner in her time of need on Ride It Out, and now he can’t stand being away from her on Salt Lake City, but given the displays he shows elsewhere, there’s something here that feels so slimy and manipulative, and that Makeout themselves can’t even detect it. That’s the real kicker: as much as Makeout may have wanted this to be satirical to some degree, there’s nothing to even imply that. At least blink-182 and All Time Low have that sort of self-awareness to let some more questionable lyrics slide; hell, even for as broad and goofy as 5 Seconds Of Summer can be, there’s innocence there that makes up for it.
With The Good Life, the whole thing feels too one-dimensional to even approach that. If this had just been the typically flawed Feldmann production job, it would’ve at least been let off the hook as a new band still finding their feet, but the fact that Makeout go so far out of their way to come across as malicious and manipulative as they do means that this album is borderline worthless. There’s a decent hook or melody around here, but that’s the extent of the praise that this album can get – it’s generic, horribly mean-spirited and not worth the time or effort to even contemplate.
For fans of: 5 Seconds Of Summer, Simple Plan, blink-182
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘The Good Life’ by Makeout is released on 29th September on Rise Records.