The 1975 – TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME
When you make a statement like “There are no big bands doing anything as interesting as us” and follow it up with a new song only a few days later, you’d better prepare for some serious scrutiny about whether what you’re doing is all that exciting. And in the case of The 1975’s obnoxiously-titled TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME, the newest track from their highly-anticipated third album, it’s not. Sure, there’s definitely something appealing about the tight, wiry beat and liquid synth work, but factor in every tropical house song of the past few years that have used these exact techniques (as well as the shrill, pitch-shifted samples as punctuation), and a band who once had real ambition in a floundering indie-pop scene seem to have had it all drained. Even Matty Healy is running on autopilot here, buried in AutoTune as he recites the same ego-feeding spiel over and over again, and more than anything, it’s just so boring. This most definitely isn’t the work of an interesting or exciting band, and considering the hype and buildup leading to this track’s release, the end result isn’t worth it in the slightest.
Thrice – Only Us
2016’s To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere was something of a turning point for Thrice, not only serving as the full-blown transition from 2000s-defining post-hardcore heroes to weathered but no-less-fearsome modern rockers, but also being their best album in a decently long time. It’s definitely encouraging that they appear to be keeping it up for new album Palms then, and the fact that Only Us comes to bear a striking resemblance to previous standout Hurricane is even better. The lurching guitars and Dustin Kensrue’s ageing vocals are as equally filled with dread as they are with clawing melancholy, as what is essentially a self-esteem anthem about strength in numbers when standing against oppressors feels as heavier and overbearing as it rightfully should. Even the few hints of electronics feel tastefully implemented and actually contribute to the driving verve, rather than just being there for modernity’s sake. It’s definitely a pleasing indicator of where Thrice are heading on that next album, especially if it’s a mould they’re going to continue to follow.
Beartooth – You Never Know
After Digusting set such a high bar, Beartooth have historically struggled to keep up in their recorded output; for as solid as Aggressive was overall, it was pretty much just more of the same for the most part, albeit without the lightning-in-a-bottle hit of its predecessor. From what we’ve had so far, it doesn’t look like Disease is striving to redress the balance either, particularly not with new track You Never Know, playing to the vein of more traditional melodic metalcore that isn’t working in the band’s favour. Beartooth have always been at their best when teetering on the edge of completely flying off the hinges, but with the squeaky-clean chorus and Caleb Shomo’s intensity levels taking a significant dip, this unavoidably feels like a filler track. Topped off with lyrics that, yet again, circle back to the same semantic field of mental anguish but stripped of so much potential intensity once again, You Never Know is a disappointingly flabby effort from a band whose output was once anything but.
Against The Current – Personal
So Against The Current are still going, eh? And they’re still treated as a rock band? Well, given how bad and non-rock In Our Bones was, neither of those things should still be happening, and based on new single Personal, nothing’s even remotely looking to change. For one, they’re barely even a band of any variety, given how instrumentally there’s not even a hint of a single musician involved, stopping at basic modern pop that comes crashing down on each beat with no payoff whatsoever. Then there’s Chrissy Constanza, and while she’s not as pitchy and shrill as she has been in the past, it wouldn’t kill her to show any emotion besides blank-faced ambivalence, particularly for a song about the death of someone so close. It all screams of the trend-chasing that Against The Current have never been above, only now they’re making it more obvious and unappetising than ever. Just more proof that Against The Current are still terrible.
Boston Manor – Bad Machine
It really feels like Boston Manor are positioning Welcome To The Neighbourhood as their real defining moment. Halo has probably done the best of any of their singles to date, but Bad Machine feels like a band really going out of their way for something great, shedding much of an already spurious emo and pop-punk billing for dour, bleak tones closer to alt-metal, as Henry Cox recalls the draining mundanity of modern life in their hometown of Blackpool with the deadened, sullen vocals of a man whose spirit has left his body. It’s probably Boston Manor’s most adventurous pivot they’ve ever taken, and drenched in enough haunted, bass-driven atmosphere for something relatively unsettling. Be Nothing already showed that Boston Manor can be a great band, but if more of this is on the horizon, they could be entering a whole different league entirely.
Coheed And Cambria – The Gutter
The fact that Coheed And Cambria can release individual tracks from their ongoing, interweaving space-opera of a narrative and still have them stand on their own is a testament to how great this band can be, especially for how tempting it would be in the midst of The Color Before The Sun – arguably their most successful release in some time – and give up on concept albums entirely. But not only does The Gutter manage to slot itself within the Amory Wars saga, but it’s a fantastic track in its own right, making up for toning down its more progressive leanings for an absolutely gigantic hook where Claudio Sanchez is at his most passionate and powerful. Couple that with a changing and evolving guitar line that almost hits a Queen level of flamboyant grandeur and a return to the cosmic love story that this band have often made so compelling, and The Gutter is easily another great track to add to Coheed And Cambria’s ever-expanding collection.
Greta Van Fleet – When The Curtain Falls
The extent of the hype and praise that Greta Van Fleet get is genuinely baffling. For a band whose single solitary reference point is Led Zeppelin and nothing else (to the point where even their fans have acknowledged the supreme likeness), the speed they seem to be growing at and the traction they’re picking up off big singles honestly shouldn’t be as prominent as it is. They look to be capitalising on that with When The Curtain Falls too, the new single from their debut album proper that’s reportedly due out in November, and it’s pretty much exactly the same as everything else they’ve offer. They’re not incompetent either – Josh Kiszka is obviously a great vocalist, and the fat, bluesy grooves are fine as they are – but even the most thorough search for just a shred of artistic individuality or innovation comes up fruitless. This is revival rock at its most rigid and shameless, pandering to those who think the genre peaked in the ‘70s and have given up since. And sure, credit to Greta Van Fleet for doing so well at playing to their audience, but when the “rock isn’t exciting anymore” crowd come out of their foxholes and it’s bands like Greta Van Fleet who are occupying the top spot, there’s really no counterargument there.
Joyce Manor – Think I’m Still In Love With You
It’s been well-documented for a long time now about how criminally underrated Joyce Manor are, and how they’ve managed to take the modern indie-punk sound and weave it into something even more snappier and homegrown. And Think I’m Still In Love With You is another perfect example, with Barry Johnson playing the hapless, jilted lover without missing a beat in his slurred, dejected delivery, paired with the oh-so-simple riff and tight two-and-a-half minute timeframe in a way that Joyce Manor have just perfected at this point. It’s honestly about as good as this sort of thing gets, and though it’s not particularly breaking the mould, there’s nothing here that really requires that. It’s simple, down-to-earth punk music that Joyce Manor always excel at, and this is no different.
Disturbed – Are You Ready
Perhaps it’s the almost subterranean-level expectations for this sort of meat-headed US radio-metal, but the fact that Disturbed haven’t been tempted to continue down the path of symphonic balladry after the success of their version of The Sound Of Silence is something of a relief. Then again, the fact that Are You Ready couldn’t sound more like a Disturbed song if it tried isn’t exactly a great move either, but it’s not exactly objectionable all the same. It’s just that you’d have hoped, for a band going into their seventh album, they might have dared to shake it up even the tiniest amount, rather than sticking to the fat guitar chugs and David Draiman’s staccato shouts that might have gotten them this far, but is getting a bit played out now. Still, it’s fine for what it is, and considering that no one really expects Disturbed to come out with any sort of opus, a track that’s unremarkable but still okay will do.
Saves The Day – Rendezvous
It’s always good to have Saves The Day around, and given how highly regarded both Through Being Cool and Stay What You Are in emo and pop-punk circles, it’s not hard to see why. Even if they’ve been nowhere near up to that standard since (though 2013’s self-titled album was still a nice surprise), they’re the sort of rock-solid band you can always count on to be decent at the very least. Sadly that’s about as far as this new track gets; Chris Conley’s lovestruck caws still have a lot of personality recalling the youthful thrills of simply running free around the world with someone you love, but with the lumpy instrumentation that struggles to really get going, there’s a sourness that doesn’t quite scan, particularly with how much the guitars insist on snarling when it’s not really needed. All credit goes to Conley for how desperately he tries to elevate it all with his hook, but Rendezvous just misses the mark overall. Not bad, but Saves The Day can do a lot better.
SWMRS – Berkeley’s On Fire
For any assertions that SWMRS are actually a good band, it doesn’t clear the lingering air of nepotism that’s surrounded them since day one; if Billie Joe Armstrong’s son wasn’t in this band, no one would care. It’s really only a matter of time (and some some inevitable Fueled By Ramen mismanagement) before people start to realise they really aren’t that great, and Berkeley’s On Fire might just herald the start of that sooner rather than later. It’s hardly difficult to see why either given that this is an inexcusably sloppy track from a band with the sort of backing as this, with loose guitars that frequently drop out for clinking percussion that’s there for God knows what reason. Hell, with the jumpy, boisterous vocal flow and anti-alt-right lyrics, it almost feels as though this is meant to be some modern approximation of Specials-esque 2 Tone, just with none of the correct knowledge or equipment to make that even a remotely feasible goal. Even for as low as expectations for SWMRS already are, this is beyond shoddy and really quite terrible, a lot more than it should be.
Petrol Girls – Sister
With just one EP and an album to their name, Petrol Girls have already established themselves as one of the most vital voices in modern punk, and with their next release The Future Is Dark just around the corner, they look set to continue with that. As such, Sister feels as though it couldn’t come at a more apt time, extolling the virtues of women banding together to overthrow toxic, manipulative men who want to keep them down, and giving Ren Aldridge’s snarls the chance to really cut. And while there’s definitely an incisiveness here that can’t be avoided – there’s a quality in the guitars to keep them as sharp as possible – there’s an undertone of sadness, particularly as the mix ebbs back for something more quiet and solemn. Of course, Petrol Girls have been the providers of some of the most intelligent punk going for the past couple of years, and this really doesn’t deviate from that whatsoever. It’s just another example of a band continuing from strength to strength.
Arcane Roots – Matter (Revel)
It always feels bad being so harsh on Arcane Roots. Time and time again, they’ve proven how inventive and interesting they can be, but the current direction they seem to be going in doesn’t seem to foster much of that, and with this new version of Matter from last year’s Melancholia Hymns, that unfortunately doesn’t look to be changing. And just like that album as a whole, this is far from awful; there’s an elegance in Andrew Groves’ soaring, impassioned vocals that sounds genuinely enormous, and combined with the fragile but excellently-arranged instrumentation, it definitely works on a technical level. But like so much of Arcane Roots’ recent material, there’s nothing particularly grabbing, and now with the inclusion of electronic whirs that simply feel slathered over the top of the mix, it cuts out much of delicacy that was the initial selling point and fails to regain much else. Again, it’s not awful, and Arcane Roots can still be a great band, but this is most definitely not the way to do it.
Black Foxxes – Lovesong
2018 has arguably been the best year for Black Foxxes to date, with another great album, decent-sized tours and festival slots and the highest level of prominence they’ve ever had already under their belts. As such, this cover of The Cure serves as a victory lap of sorts, and to be perfectly honest, it’s not one of the best things that Black Foxxes have ever done. Of course, it’s pretty necessary to go into something this with capped expectations, and by those standards, Lovesong is fine enough; Mark Holley has a tremble in his voice that can’t quite match the plaintive simplicity of Robert Smith’s original but gives it a good go, and with a very standard, clear alt-rock instrumental pallet only augmented with faint hints of strings, you can see the attempts made to stay fairly faithful. Maybe it’s because of that that it doesn’t stand out that much, hitting a mid-paced groove early on that rarely changes or evolves, hitting a stasis that feels a bit too safe. Still, for a stopgap cover, you don’t go in expecting all that much, and Black Foxxes have good enough melodic instincts to make this a worthwhile listen, even if just barely.
Silent Planet – Share The Body
Silent Planet have often been placed on a higher pedestal that a lot of modern metalcore’s mid-tier players, and while there’s definitely been evidence for that here and there, that one track is yet to come up that could really push them over the top. Thankfully, Share The Body looks like it might be just that, breaking standard genre convention and leaning into a more Archictects-inspired direction for a vicious screed against the opioid epidemic. Sure, they’re not pushing the boat out that far, but in terms of a more technically-minded take on the rather blasé modern formula, and the fact that Garrett Russell has a much more fluid vocal approach than many of his contemporaries while still keep a fair level of venom, it’s definitely something that sets Silent Planet as more than typical Warped Tour undercard filler. If this is something they could build on, that new album could be pretty interesting indeed.
Amaranthe – 365
Amaranthe’s blend of power-metal, melo-death and the strongest of Euro-cheese is an acquired taste to start with, but it’s always surprising how uneven what they do always seems to be. It was the case with their last album Maximalism, and with new track 365, it doesn’t look as though much has changed, either in the approach or the outcome. Once again, Amaranthe are launching everything they’ve got at full pelt, as guitars blast through with little subtlety or texture, all three vocalists are – as always – pushing themselves to lung-busting ranges, as possibly their most grating, atonal synth line today slices through the mix in fits and spurts that never become more pleasant. The ear for a colossal hook and melody is still running at full capacity, but considering how skewed the fitting of each individual piece is, that impact is hugely dampened. Then again, it’s not as if the same can’t be said about some of Amaranthe’s offerings in the past.
Drenge – Outside
A more cynical mind would view Drenge’s return as something to scoff at, like the dregs of an indie wave that passed a good few years ago trying to claw some form of relevance when – in all honesty – there isn’t a great deal else to get excited about. Even if they’ve rarely offered much themselves beyond a fairly average brand of indie-grunge, Outside is at least indicative of a band sloughing off the trendiness that they initially rode the wave on, and just making a fairly decent song. It’s actually pleasantly surprising what’s offered here, and since bulking their lineup to a trio in 2015, there’s a good deal of muscle and groove that seems to be working for them; it’s easily the catchiest song they’ve released in a while. It’s still nothing entirely special, but if this is a sign of things to come for their upcoming EP, Drenge might have avoided being carried away in the indie landslide for a bit longer.
Miss Vincent – Melanie
With their penchant for big, lovestruck punk hooks and a slight affinity for the gothic, on the surface it wouldn’t be totally out of the question to deem Miss Vincent a diet Creeper of sorts. They aren’t exactly helping themselves with Melanie either – a clean, openly theatrical vocal performance from Alex Marshall feels lifted right out of Will Gould’s playbook, and the relentless bounce and ubiquitous “whoa-oh”s only hone in the comparison even further. Throw in musical nods to the Ramones and Alkaline Trio to round it all off, and Miss Vincent’s intentions of treading down their Southampton kinsfolk’s path to superstardom seems pretty blatant. It’s not bad, and the ability to pin down a melody that pops out as much as this one does at such an early stage will prove an instrumental skill in future. They just need to get everything around that sorted out first.
Mantra – Run Away
You’ll always find at least a couple of bands like Mantra floating around, the ones pegged as Britrock’s next big stars that actually happen to be making some headway for themselves through solid singles and exposure. That’s basically the case with Run Away, the newest cut from the band’s upcoming debut Dreamland, and while nothing too mind-blowing – a fairly catchy, crunchy alt-rock track with all the expected sensibilities of a band in the modern Britrock wave – Mantra are laying down the pieces for something good in the future. It’s always difficult to talk about no-frills alt-rock and this is really no different (possibly its biggest shortcoming with a lack of anything really distinct), but the Mantra’s core of strength is most definitely there and waiting to be built on.
Pile – Cup
A band like Pile is never likely to find enormous, large-scale success. That’s not because they aren’t good, but with a sound as ramshackle as theirs that’s become so ingrained in the indie scene, it’s not the sort of thing that typically crosses over. That’s pretty much the same case for Cup, a new track from their upcoming rarities compilation, but even so, it’s pretty good regardless, sliding between slacker-indie and noise-rock with a fair amount of ease, and there’s a lot of character in the shabbiness of it all, both in the production and in Rick Maguire’s vocals. It definitely won’t be to everyone’s taste, as is usually the case with something as lo-fi and unassuming as this, but between a solid foundation and some impressive evolving guitar work, this isn’t bad at all.
Aspiga – Searching
As an indie-punk band from New Jersey, it doesn’t take a genius to work out where on the musical map that Aspiga’s sound falls. Yes, touches of The Menzingers and The Gaslight Anthem are blatant, and yes, the earthy, burnished production style has been the hallmark of this sound for years now, but like so many similar to them, this trio at least seem to be on the right track. Kevin Day has a decent amount of grit in his vocals to make the most of rough-and-ready instrumentation, and going down a typically heartfelt lyrical path continues to pay significant dividends here. The one thing to bring up is that, even among the underground crop, Aspiga don’t really have anything to distinguish themselves from the scores of others vying for the same goal, but in a vacuum, Searching stands as a solid example of the bigger things this band could do with the right opportunities.
Running Red Lights – Salt
By every count, there should be something about Running Red Lights’ Salt that’s totally and utterly insufferable. After all, it’s an almost deliriously upbeat and sugary indie-pop-folk track that’s clearly got both eyes burned into being a radio smash, and in an exploration of depression that couldn’t feel more miscalculated or jarring if it tried, this should be awful. And let’s stress that it’s not great – Kevin Howley and Scarlett as dual vocalists have the sort of overly-rambunctious energy of the most overzealous children’s TV presenters that all feels a bit much with the gleaming, spotless production – but honestly, it’s too harmless to outright hate or feel more than a mild soft spot for just for the virtue of trying. It’s totally understandable that something as relentlessly chipper as this is the kryptonite for so many, but if you’re this way inclined, you could do worse.
Words by Luke Nuttall