blink-182 – Blame It On My Youth
Pretty much everything leading up to the new blink-182 album has suggested this cycle could be an absolute disaster. Between apparent production credits from The Chainsmokers and the announcement of their upcoming US tour with Lil Wayne of all people, the notion of drifting even closer to mainstream pop-rock banality is a worrying thought, especially when California’s production seemingly saw that as a conscious goal rather than an unfortunate accident. But say what you want about that album, at least it had some great moments; Blame It On My Youth feels as though it’s trying to move forward from that basis but ends up shockingly hollow. For one, any guitar tone is reduced to a choppy, tinny fragment beneath trap snares and Travis Barker’s drum work that sounds far more brittle than it should, while the whitewashed production has next to no body, and thus what could be another explosive, arena-conquering chorus ends up on the same flat level as everything else. It’s a remarkably lax and lazy-sounding track, not helped by the fact that both Mark Hoppus and Matt Skiba distinctly sound as though they can’t be bothered as they rattle off tropes about their childhoods that have left them how they are now. It’s the most safe, milquetoast premise for a song a pop-punk can come up with, and considering that blink once had a levity and sense of humour that could at least balance out these mundanities, something like this just isn’t acceptable. Between this and Simple Creatures, it feels as though Mark Hoppus is desperately trying solidify his place within the current, sterile pop-rock pantheon, as if that actually means something when virtually any band that actually tries could run circles around it.
Idles – Mercedes Marxist
Given the phenomenal success that Joy As An Act Of Resistance nabbed for them – ranging from their highest profile within British music to date to a whole slew of bands looking to draw exclusively from their influence – it’s hardly surprise that Idles are releasing more new music. Rather than a precursor to another new album though, Mercedes Marxist is more of a leftover from the sessions of that last album, and to be honest, it’s kind of easy to tell. That’s not to say it’s all that bad, especially with the quintessential sense of wit and barrel-chested bravado that’s become an integral part of Idles’ music, but it’s perhaps the sort of track that best highlights the hang-ups that so many have with this band, namely a very basic idea extrapolated in a way that may feel unsatisfying. It’s hard to deny that the meaty bassline is effective, but running through the whole track with little change or evolution isn’t the best of moves, and it can feel pretty clear why this was left off the album proper given that it simply feels like a lot lesser of a cut in virtually every way. It’s still fine and will undoubtedly sate the diehards who’ve come in thick and fast now, but it’s probably a better and more satisfying option to just wait for album three.
Telethon – How Long Do I Let Go For?
Telethon’s Modern Abrasive EP last year was the sort of underrated gem that truly sneaks up on everyone, a sleek, exuberant pop-rock listen with the gloriously endearing awkwardness of indie-punk that barely put a foot wrong across its all-too-brief runtime. It really felt like the release to break them into far bigger things if they could suitably capitalise on it, something they seem to be doing with new album Hard Pop, not only giving it a summer release date but, off the evidence shown by How Long Do I Let Go For?, elevating their pop chops to their highest peak yet. Vocalist Kevin Tully might fill his role with loose, erratic yelps, but coupled with the rousing, ramshackle guitar pickups, sugar-sweet synth work and cushions of strings to tie everything together, it all comes together as a brand of power-pop that’s pretty much as close to Panic! At The Disco at points as it is to modern indie-punk. And of course, it goes without saying that this band’s sense of melody has the same ironclad excellence as ever, but they’re only inflating it to a degree that makes it so easy to believe they could fully take over this scene with no worries whatsoever. That’ll only be fully proven when Hard Pop is released, but right now, all signs point towards Telethon absolutely soaring.
Skillet – Legendary
You can’t really blame Skillet for this. As much as a certain subset of Three Days Grace fans might want people to believe that this is the next step up from that in terms of rock evolution, Skillet are genuinely irrelevant at this point, not to mention burdened by a Christian rock label that’s only felt more and more perfunctory with every listen. So why not bite the bullet and go straight for the modern rock jugular of big ol’ stomps, millennial whoops to replace lyrics that are already shameful in their derivativeness, and a general lack of progression that makes any of this meaningful in the slightest? Sure, John Cooper has the vocals that’ll give their inevitable arena shows the bombast that the fans will want, but paper-thin efforts like this feel designed to court that exact goal rather than satisfyingly build up to it, and the fact that that can apply to this dreadfully-written, overproduced nu-metal slurry is a sad state of affairs indeed. There is literally nothing that can be gained from this song, and it just serves as yet another reminder for the pile of how worthless Skillet actually are.
Chase Atlantic – HER
Clearly not content with just releasing a terrible EP in 2019 (stick around for a few weeks for some further thoughts on that), Chase Atlantic seem to think that even more of their basic ‘alt’-trap is needed this year. It’s not, of course, but it’s hard to even see why they think that, especially when HER sees so little improvement or evolution on really anything. Mitchel Cave is still as dead-eyed and bereft of power or personality as ever, especially when he remains content with rattling off generic lyrical beats as if they’re going out of style, and the one-note presentation strips back anything potentially likable about his delivery that might have shown up. To their credit, Chase Atlantic can create a solid sense of atmosphere with the washed-out synths and blurry guitars, and in truth, it averages this track out to inconsequential more than outright awful. Still, that being a high point is nothing to be proud of, as Chase Atlantic continue to squander the good will that alternative spheres inexplicably continue to give them with boring, flavourless mush like this.
Cursed Earth ft. Joel Birch – Torch
As interesting as Cursed Earth’s idea of getting a different vocalist on each track for their new EP, among a tracklist featuring members of Kublai Khan and Venom Prison, The Amity Affliction’s Joel Birch was always going to cast a peculiar shadow, particularly fronting a beatdown-centric hardcore band when his main outfit are the furthest thing from that. But to be fair, Birch’s screams always have been the best thing about The Amity Affliction, and paired with a rather brief example of darker, more openly aggressive material like Torch, he’s actually able to slot in rather well. The hints of some rather basic hardcore and metalcore ideas still haven’t been shaken off, but there’s plenty of presence and weight here, especially with Birch providing a rather convincing mouthpiece for material that actually knows how to get darker and more transgressive. Like Cursed Earth’s last attempt at this, it’ll undoubtedly be more interesting to see how this will slot into the larger context of the full release, but for now, they continue to at least spur on more curiosity about what they’re actually planning.
Junior – Playing The Part
Junior are one of those bands for whom the information surrounding them will almost certainly overshadow the music in no uncertain terms. That comes primarily from vocalist and bassist Mark Andrews being a well-known WWE wrestler, but beyond that, they’ve regularly proven themselves to be a fairly competent pop-punk band. ‘Competent’ is pretty much the operative word, too, as while Playing The Part does a good job at capturing the feel and big, bouncy energy of the early-to-mid-2000s, it can feel a bit rote, particularly in its starry-eyed lyrical content driven by positivity that only adds to some unfortunately saccharine production. Still, there’s enough of a chunky guitar presence to make this work a fair bit, and in nailing down the hook-driven nature of the sound to a fantastically tight degree, that ultimately tips the scales into positive territory for Junior. It’s not incredible, but there’s always a place for pop-punk like this, especially when it’s done this well.
EAT DIRT. – Make Peace
There’s no questioning how heavily EAT DIRT. take their inspiration from a very classic band of street-punk and hardcore punk. From the frenetic pacing to Ben Mills’ roughened, rugged shouts to the sub-minute-and-a-half runtime, this isn’t a track looking to command the floor for some enormous opus, though for what it is, it’s fine enough. While the production can occasionally feel a tad lacking, particularly in the back half when it drops into a more mid-paced gallop, there’s enough rawness here to make this brief fragment of a track work reasonably, and even if the sound isn’t hugely original, it’s easy to see that EAT DIRT. clearly have a fondness for it given how deeply ingrained this track is. And really, there’s not much else to say about it; for fans of hardcore punk, Make Peace should go some way towards scratching an itch, but it’d be nice to have a bit more to see what this band can actually do beyond such a fleeting example.
Words by Luke Nuttall