It’s unfortunate that Columbus never got the attention they deserved off the back of 2016’s Spring Forever. Chalk it up to a lack of higher profile promotion that could’ve pushed it over the edge, or that patience for this sort of pop-punk and emo was virtually threadbare at this point, but if there was one band who could’ve broken through regardless, it would be this Australian trio, taking a more thoughtful, incisive look at the rise and fall of a relationship than pretty much anyone else in their vein.
It’s definitely good to see Columbus continuing to push ahead then, though A Hot Take On Heartbreak is an album that ultimately feels telling of their current situation, one driven by self-deprecation as its primary emotion that could be applied to diminishing motivation just as easily as any other personal troubles. If Columbus could pull something like that off, it’d certainly be admirable in continuing to establish themselves as a much smarter band in pop-punk, but sadly that doesn’t seem to be the case. Rather, A Hot Take In Heartbreak falls into the more conventional mould of post-break-up stupor with nowhere near the detail of its predecessor, and that can make for a much flimsier and less-developed listen. The consistent narrative that made Spring Forever is largely replaced by Alex Moses feeling sorry for himself, and often with an oddly lightly tone that strips away much of the pathos that this sort of material could have, and in turn makes the likes of Worn Out This Week and especially Piece Of Shit feel like borderline parodies. It’s disappointing in all honesty, particularly when Columbus have demonstrated what fantastic songwriters they are in the past, but flooding this album with directionless self-deprecation ultimately caps the impact that these better moments can have, like the turn in fortune on Give Up or the more mature, contemplative writing on Difficult Conversations and Feel This Way.
At least Columbus are still making music that’s infectious on a purer level, and the desire to be more of a straight-up rock band here can only leave it to be assumed that less of an onus was put on the lyrics in favour of hooks and melodies. And from that point of view, they don’t do a bad job here; there’s plenty of crunch and Weezer-style fuzz, and the simplicity to tracks like Don’t Know How To Act and Woke Up With A Heart Attack play to a very earnest, hangdog strength that Moses has in his vocal tone. He’s perhaps not as expressive or visceral as he could be, but for this sort of college-rock-influenced alt-rock and emo, there’s a lot about it that works, particularly on the more minor, melancholy Difficult Conversations. It gives the illusion of deeper nuance even if it’s not actually there, and Columbus are talented enough in terms of personality to pull it off better than most.
That’s definitely A Hot Take On Heartbreak’s saving grace, particularly when this does feel like a considerable step down from their debut. It’s less intelligent and fully-formed overall with a lyrical direction that remains fairly static throughout, though a keen ear for melody does shift the needle from total disappointment to still likable, even to a much lesser degree. Still, Columbus have proven their capabilities to where this can at least be presumed to be a fluke wobble; hopefully they’ll get another chance to prove themselves once again.
For fans of: Weezer, Real Friends, Sleep On It
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘A Hot Take On Heartbreak’ by Columbus is released on 25th May on UNFD.