A Day To Remember – Degenerates
It’s been three years since A Day To Remember’s last album, and given that they’re still ostensibly a pop-punk band, it was always going to be interesting to see how they plan to reintroduce them into that landscape that’s changed so drastically. Their collaboration with Marshmello Rescue Me already rubbed plenty of diehards the wrong way (to the point where the number of people who clearly don’t know what a featuring credit is, is quite shocking), and while that wasn’t a direct indication of what was to come, Degenerates is closer to that than something like The Downfall Of Us All. In terms of songwriting and Jeremy McKinnon’s general vocal delivery, this is much more in line with blink-182’s later work, even with the eased-back bridge in which the vocals do sound a fair bit like Mark Hoppus. And that’s quite disappointing, especially when this is a much simpler, more radio-ready song than they’re used to, but the presence of real, rumbling guitars is definitely a plus, even if they feel noticeably more toothless amongst production that’s a bit too synthetic and clean for its own good, apropros of a Fueled By Ramen signing that’s arrived with depressing predictability. It’s something of an anticlimax to return with, especially for a band like A Day To Remember who’ve been capable of so much more than this in the past, and while this isn’t exactly the worst example of this sound to date, it’s a slip that we can only pray isn’t indicative of a full-blown fall from grace.
The 1975 – People
This can arguably be considered the first track off Notes On A Conditional Form after the previously-released eponymous track was more on an intro than anything else, and thus it’s up to this one to set the tone that The 1975 are going for. It’s certainly interesting as well, drawing on some very clear punk influences that have never really been in The 1975’s wheelhouse as Matty Healy lets out crackling screams over garage-rock guitars that’s designed to capture the sense of rage and anger at watching the world being ruined for younger generations. And yet, it’s not hard to see why this hasn’t been attempted by this band before, mostly because beyond what feels like a very rudimentary understanding of what punk actually is, the lack of overall nuance is only highlighted by the apparent desire to make up for it with this new sound. Especially given how The 1975 have stressed in the past that they don’t consider themselves a rock band, this feels rather calculated, especially given how the overall result doesn’t really pan out.
The Menzingers – America (You’re Freaking Me Out)
It’s not like The Menzingers need much of an introduction or greater analysis these days. Everyone knows that they’re one of the best punk bands in the world capable of evoking such passionate emotions through hugely endearing, everyman presentation, and America (You’re Freaking Me Out) is no different. If there was a criticism to have, it would be that it’s pretty unwavering when it comes to following the checklist of this band’s features – mid-paced rollick; warm, crackling production; timeless lyrical bent with multiple references to America – but this is very much a case of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. Right now, there’s no one doing this sound with the unflinching precision of The Menzingers, and considering they’re keeping their bar of quality raised almost ridiculously high, it’s not like it’s too much of a problem that this is somewhat familiar. It is, and that can’t be ignored, but at this point, it’s more of a feature than a flaw; The Menzingers know how to work with it, and this is another great example of that.
Dream State – Open Windows
Now that their debut full-length is in the pipeline, it feels as though a lot of the hype around Dream State is beginning to crystallise into something much more tangible. A number of strong singles and live appearances have already seen that begin to build, but this could be the moment where things really start to click in a huge way, and while it’s not quite the sure-fire evidence that most would’ve liked, Open Windows at least sees a band ready to make the significant waves they’ve been threatening for a while. The faults remains largely the same in it being rooted in Dream State’s set-in-stone sound of melodic post-hardcore that remains as unwavering as ever, but the avalanches of guitars and crashing drums mixed with airy, atmospheric production and CJ Gilpin’s vocals simultaneously hitting their most claustrophobic and fervent peaks possibly to date, Dream State aren’t so much innovating within their sound as nudging it in a direction that sees how far they can actually go. They’re doing a good job of it too, and while Open Windows is still yet to represent the smash hit this band are capable of, it’s another small step in the right direction.
Nervus – They Don’t
The thing that Nervus have arguable excelled at the most is taking subject matter that encapsulates all the bleakness of the modern world and attaching to some of the most infectious, hook-laden modern punk going, something which has seen them rightfully become one of the shining lights of the DIY scene. They Don’t is no different either, with lyrics focusing on the intrinsic corruption and biases of the police against minority groups and marginalised people, but conveying it as a shuffling indie-punk jam clearly soaked in shades of Britpop in its warm lilt, and drizzled with dancing pianos and chant-along choruses to fully emphasise how populist this message actually is. There’s a robustness and defiance about it as well, and delivered by Em Foster and her strident, authoritative tones, it highlights just how Nervus are so superior to a lot of their contemporaries; they’re just as direct, but theirs is an approach that hits a lot harder with the force of the biggest rock bands around, and the results ultimately speak for themselves.
Poppy – Concrete
Given that not one single thing about Poppy is even remotely predictable, it’s hardly a great shock to see that she’s signed to Sumerian for her upcoming album, a move that suggests her moving even deeper into the metal world that she’s been cross-breeding with her brand of bubblegum pop for a while now. And indeed, Concrete feels like the next logical step – if any of this can really be called logical – playing with caffeinated synth lines for a hook that could belong to the most plastic of J-pop artists, counterbalanced by heavier industrial riffing before closing off on mid-paced pop-rock that serves as some weird amalgamation of the two. It’s certainly brave in its total disregard for genre or form, but it’s hard to say if it really works on its own, mostly because any sort of progression feels greatly muddled between such angular shifts in direction, and while Poppy herself remains the constant factor as the enigmatic, ever-so-slightly unsettling presence that she is, it ultimately takes more than just that to wrangle these disparate pieces into a whole that works. Points for effort, sure, and Poppy still has plenty of mileage in her as an artist in this vein, but this maybe isn’t the best example of that.
Incubus – Into The Summer
After 8 proved to be the enormous disappointment that it was, it was always going to be hard for Incubus to go anywhere but up. That album did not justice for just how creative this band can be, and with how rushed it felt being a particularly unsavoury topping, it felt like the work of a band who can and should be doing much better. Thankfully, Into The Summer does do that, mostly through reigning in and streamlining pretty much everything for a tight, bass-driven pop-rock track that Incubus could knock out in their sleep, but still has the sort of flair that does work. Brandon Boyd has the sort of effortless, natural charisma that gels perfectly with this sort of lightweight, breezier track, and even if the hazier bridge does compromise the momentum somewhat, it’s not like it takes long to get going again. It’s low-stakes, sure, but it’s also something that Incubus can pull off really well, and Into The Summer is proof of what that can do for them.
Airbourne – Boneshaker
Does anyone really need a review of a new Airbourne song at this point? Hell, even making the AC/DC comparison feels redundant at this point, given just how obvious it’s become that this band is never going to evolve even slightly. Now to their credit, they’ve done it well in the past, but there’s a limit to just how much that can be done, and with a formula that’s already beginning to feel wrung out, Boneshaker really does feel like ideas that have already been laid down numerous times before coming back up with little variation. Even the central riff feels more or less the same to something they’ve done before, and Joel O’Keeffe’s vocals, while having range, having moved past the usual screeching that characterises basically everything that Airbourne has ever done. Fans will undoubtedly enjoy it, but even then it’s limited to diehards only, especially when there’s no guarantee that anything will be gleaned from this at all.
Microwave – Float To The Top
It’s usually interesting to see what Microwave are going to do next, not necessarily to see if it’ll be good but simply to see how close they are to making an impression. They’re still very much on the fringes of a scene that, dominated by indie-rock and emo, is incredibly crowded, and it’s hard to see them shaking that norm up as of now. That said, if there’s one song that could at least build their profile to a greater extent, Float To The Top could be it, with its slithering, ominous bassline that breaks into a seething, blown-out hook that feels like Microwave at last drawing on their strongest impulses and influences, especially with a guitar tone that carries that sort of rage just as effectively. It definitely feels like the band’s strongest stride to date, moving into an area of compositional distinctiveness that really benefits them, and has a whole lot to like about it to boot.
Words by Luke Nuttall