Is Seaway’s window of opportunity close to closing? It’s only worth asking because after they unexpectedly hit the zenith of 2017 pop-punk with Vacation, they’ve not really done a whole lot with that momentum. Sure, their profile is bigger than it’s ever been now, but beyond a few sporadic single releases, what could’ve been their moment to permanently reserve a spot amongst the true modern forces in the genre has felt more like they’ve been eyeing it up from afar without making their move. And while on the face of it, Fresh Produce looks like they’re finally committing and releasing a new album to fully solidify things, it’s really not; there are new tracks here, yes, but this is largely an odds-and-ends compilation that serves to sate only the most dedicated and few else. It’s not even as though that’s a premature indictment on its quality either, not when that’s more or less the universal case with releases like this, and regardless of how good it is, it still feels like a band spinning its wheels overall.
And while that’s overall true, even to call it an odds-and-ends compilation feels disingenuous, as Fresh Produce isn’t even that. More than anything, it feels like Seaway taking whatever they could find lying around and throwing it together for a mishmash of stuff that isn’t too bad but never really goes anywhere, not when this is standing as their first proper release in two years. It doesn’t help when the seams that have stitched this album together aren’t hidden in the slightest, and only makes the whole thing seem even more unwieldy; the two new tracks may be the lead attraction, but with a handful of reworkings, some covers and – for seemingly no adequately explained reason – the entirety of their 2014 All In My Head EP stuck on to the end, it’s a weird, lumpen release that struggles to justify its mere existence at almost every turn.
And for an album like this, that’s arguably more important than just a regular new studio release. Where this falls in the band’s catalogue can have just as significant effect on how it’s viewed as the quality of the music inside, and if Fresh Produce completely buckles right out of the gate, it’s here. With every listen, it consistently feels that this album has no need to exist, especially after the album that took Seaway to their peak, and considering this is effectively the first opportunity they’ve given themselves to capitalise, it feels like a huge oversight on the band’s part. Even with the new songs taken into consideration, it’s hardly what the buildup has been getting to; sure, both Pleasures and Blur are good enough in the realms of bouncy pop-punk singalongs, but compared to Seaway’s best where they can really show a sense of dynamism that a lot of the peers really do lack, they feel like the hasty justifications for this project being released than anything else.
That’s really what the majority of this album can be deemed as, particularly when nothing here is all that bad but only exists in this current form to pad out everything that Seaway had left in the locker, and when a frankly startling amount of it has already been released, it’s hard to know what to really think of it all. All In My Head is the best example; there’s still a huge deal of likability to tracks like Your Best Friend and Alberta, but just the general inclusion feels enormously perfunctory, and while it can be argued that it’s here to build on Seaway’s current high-flying status and expose new fans to older material that they mightn’t be familiar with, it’s a pretty flimsy excuse to recycle old material that has never needed to be recycled. It’s a similar case with the covers; their rendition of The Chainsmokers’ and Halsey’s Closer returns with the synthetic trimmings sounding no better, with Just What I Needed tries to capture the intent of The Cars’ original in its piercing synths but never really hits the mark. Their take on Alanis Morissette’s Hand In My Pocket probably fares the best in the trading vocals and a sturdier alt-rock formula, but it’s hardly a seller on its own, even if it does bump up the overall quality. The reworkings fit that mould a lot better, with Something Wonderful sounding really quite good as a chilled-out acoustic track, a mashup of Slam and Shy Guys coming as a nice surprise that actually integrates the two pretty well, and 40 Over being the overall highlight as it morphs into an exceptionally solid alt-pop cut.
On the whole though, Fresh Produce has every quality of a stopgap without Seaway even trying to avoid them. That doesn’t precisely make it bad, and there’s a decent number of tracks that are agreeable here, particularly for diehard fans, but the fact that this is the product of two years away really does feel like a disappointment, especially when it’s destined to be seen as a throwaway release from this band, probably in the near future. Still, in terms of plugging the gap, it does its job well, and even if a proper Seaway album would’ve been exponentially preferable, this isn’t actively an egregious replacement. That said, if that next album isn’t on the horizon after this, expect Seaway’s star to begin falling at an alarming rate.
For fans of: State Champs, WSTR, Stand Atlantic
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Fresh Produce’ by Seaway is released on 19th April on Pure Noise Records.