So this has been a pretty long time coming, hasn’t it? Weatherstate’s first big splash came with 2016’s Dumbstruck EP, with the sort of gritty, supercharged pop-punk that does more than enough to slough off the negative connotations that genre has picked up in recent years, and hark back to an unashamedly classic sound. Suffice to say, it was pretty great, but after that, there’s not been much noise from their camp, to the point where so many other bands seem to have lapped them in the stakes of organic yet enormously infectious punk. The fickleness of the genre could’ve meant they’d stay permanently buried, but Born A Cynic seems to be putting paid to those notions, half because this is the sort of timeless style that doesn’t need to conform to release windows to be great, and half because everything they’ve released up to now has only solidified a reputation for being one of the most reliable punk bands currently working.
And really, ‘reliable’ seems to be the most apt term, as while throughout its runtime Born A Cynic barely puts a foot wrong, it always does so in a context that can be a little formulaic and doesn’t translate as smoothly from EP to album. That’s not to say this is bad at all, because it most certainly isn’t, and Weatherstate still know how to deliver a meaty pop-punk experience with all the spit and snotty abrasion left in, but it’s not quite able to bring that forward into greatness, and that’s a shame.
It’s worth noting, though, that there’s still a lot done right here. For one, there’s not a drop of pop-punk’s ever-monopolising polish in sight, instead relying on big, grimy guitars channeling grunge and classic punk in their frenetic snarling, and Harry Hoskins’ vocals that do feel unrestrained and unrefined, but it’s far preferable to being shunted in place at every possible turn with no freedom whatsoever. Theirs is a classic example of the pop-punk underground shooting for the stars in the same way that bands like Gnarwolves did so well at, and with the huge melodies that tie together Rotten Lungs and Medicate, or the anger and pessimism colouring Barely Human and Nothing Matters If You Try (the former even given some extra aggro spice thanks to a guest turn from Trash Boat’s Tobi Duncan), this feels like an album made from intent rather than fashion. As much as that can cause the lyricism to default to some rather cut-and-dry fields surrounding disconnection and mental health, there’s almost a spontaneity that keeps it afloat more often than not, and that can do Born A Cynic quite a few favours when it doesn’t necessarily always hit its high points.
And that is a factor to take into consideration, mostly because, for as good as Weatherstate are at pushing ahead with this sound, its own limitations are where this album ultimately stumbles. For one, there’s only so much mileage it really has sonically, and for all the attempts made to contort it into something new with sprinklings of grunge and hardcore, the base product ultimately remains the same. It’s why bands like Weatherstate so readily thrive on EPs; a tighter, more confined space allows punchier, more ragged material to shine, and that’s exemplified by some of the natural sag that Born A Cynic experiences. Alongside production that can sometimes feel a bit too muddy and loose for its own good, it makes for an album that doesn’t quite hit the stellar beats that its predecessor did a couple of years ago.
The frustrating part is that it’s not entirely Weatherstate’s fault, more a sound that, should they find ways to diversify and improve in the future, could do great things for them that aren’t quite made apparent here. Still, that’s no reason to write this album off as a failure, because it’s definitely not. As far as pop-punk in 2019 goes, Weatherstate are capable of some of the genre’s most exhilarating and pleasingly organic individual moments that really hint at a band finding true excellence when they hit their stride. It’s a shame they aren’t there just yet, but when that does happen, the results could be incredible.
For fans of: Trash Boat, Eat Defeat, Such Gold
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Born A Cynic’ by Weatherstate is released on 10th May on Failure By Design Records.