Yep, that’s right – Mayday Parade are breaking their streak. As a band who’ve become notorious for consistently sticking to their own habits, releasing the past however many albums two years apart in the same five-day window in early October, they’ve decided to give new album Sunnyland a summer release for the first time since their debut in 2007. And honestly, a change of pace could be good for them; 2015’s Black Lines was met with exceedingly harsh responses for its pivot towards a more intense emo direction, so by taking a bit more time and settling in at their new home Rise Records, this could be a galvanisation for Mayday Parade that they’ve been needing for a long time.
Except it’s not, because this is virtually the same Mayday Parade we know and are growing progressively more tired of. This isn’t likely to be a problem for many; after all, the band have gotten this far with their formula so what’s the point in changing now? Well, when that formula has been flagging for as many albums as it has, and when so many opportunities to grow and redefine that sound arise, it only makes sense to take them and avoid falling further into a rut that, in the long term, isn’t good for anyone.
Even if they’ve not exactly done that though, Sunnyland still does a sufficient job of re-highlighting Mayday Parade’s strengths, even though it has been done many times before. They still know their way around a more theatrical pop-rock hook like on Never Sure or Looks Red, Tastes Blue, and on Is Nowhere their more recent, hard-edged emo streak feels a lot more palatable than it did on Black Lines. And that’s something that Mayday Parade deserve a lot of credit for; of all bands expected to eschew modern pop-rock’s obsession with glitz and pop sheen, you’d expect them to be fairly low down the list, so the fact they’ve embraced a more naturalistic approach to the extent they have is enormously commendable, and something they’ve stuck with for the duration of this latest phase of their career.
And therein lies the problem; everything about Sunnyland feels so safe and tame, not even attempting to stretch beyond pre-drawn boundaries where anything potentially more exciting or workable could be. The one change made is swapping out piano ballads for acoustic ones, and of the four here, it’s only Where You Are that even comes close to the fragility and tenderness that’s made them one of this band’s calling cards. Other than that, everything is fitted neatly in its correct place; the favoured mid-paced pop-rock still switches between solid and forgettable on a sixpence, and Derek Sanders with his earnest warble is still lovestruck, despondent, nostalgic or a combination of the three (or on Satellite, seemingly bored out of his skull). And it’s not like any of this sticks or hits with much deeper resonance either, and instead it just feels like another album of Mayday Parade painting over their own catalogue to try and market it as something new.
And to put it simply, it’s not. For as rich as their melodic core remains, Mayday Parade are running critically low on interesting ways to convey it, and Sunnyland feels like the last step before hitting a wall at full force. Sure, it’ll appeal to existing fans, but that’s all Mayday Parade have got at this point, and spinning their wheels in front of the same audience time and time again will only last for so long. The opportunity for something new was there and they didn’t take it, and that makes it all the harder to feel sorry for them if things don’t pan out.
For fans of: The Maine, You Me At Six, Madina Lake
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Sunnyland’ by Mayday Parade is released on 15th June on Rise Records.