Green Day – Father Of All…
There’s definitely cause to be worried about new music from Green Day. Not only have they been steadily trending downwards over the past few years, whether it’s the totally botched trilogy or Revolution Radio which was marginally better but still not all that good, the announcement of this new single and its upcoming album also coincides with a news of a world tour with Fall Out Boy and Weezer, two bands who haven’t necessarily come out of the back half of the 2010s smelling of roses. But if nothing else, it’s easy to see what Green Day are trying to do with Father Of All…, with the scrappier production and an overall focus on scuzziness to make a believable garage-rock imitation that could be bought, in theory. And that would be the case if this didn’t feel like a band trying so hard to double down on how relevant they believe they still are, with the slappy percussion under floundering blocks of guitar trying so hard to rough and ragged, but really only feeling tired and beaten down. It’s all tied together by Billie Joe Armstrong’s vocal performance, not only buried in superfluous fuzz that serves no evident purpose, but almost constantly wedged up into an uncomfortable falsetto that makes it seem all the more likely that everything was crammed into position by force. It’s genuinely sad that a band as influential as Green Day have resorted to making these anaemic pastiches of modern sounds in a bid to sound relevant when they really don’t need to, but Father Of All… is effectively the final nail in the coffin for this band once again ascending to punk royalty, and instead slumming it with the rest of the mainstream rock bands more preoccupied with chasing a quick buck than remembering who they are.
Fall Out Boy – Dear Future Self (Hands Up)
Here’s the second of the accompanying tracks for the announcement of the Hella Mega Tour, this time from everyone’s favourite modern pop punching-bags Fall Out Boy. That’s not as unfair as it sounds either, especially when they’ve seemingly been stockpiling every bad decision they’ve ever come up with to release in quick succession, with this particular weird and wonderful cut coming from their upcoming greatest hits album with a guest spot from Wyclef Jean that just fits what Fall Out Boy are in 2019 to a T. But to be fair, this is arguably one of the better songs they’ve released in some time, even if Jean’s presence is entirely unneeded with his appearance seemingly delegated to providing some patois-driven spice that isn’t disagreeable, but it doesn’t need to be here. Otherwise though, the cluttered production that’s been a sore spot in all of their post-hiatus work returns, but alongside the busier guitar work and Patrick Stump’s more frantic vocal delivery, it’s not nearly as bad, even if dropping out the instrumentation almost entirely for Jean’s fragments lands with an audible thud. It’s still nowhere close to their best material from either of their eras, but it’s a step up if nothing else, and while Fall Out Boy seem to revel in making it exceptionally difficult to predict where they’re going to go next, there’s at least more to like here than there has been in the past.
Weezer – The End Of The Game
And now for the final Hella Mega Tour tie-in track, this time from Weezer who, even compared to Green Day and Fall Out Boy, find themselves in the most dire of straits at the minute. That can be reliably corroborated by the fact that this new song is from another upcoming album, proving how little faith they clearly have in their current work, especially when it’s supposedly more influenced by classic metal to hammer home just how difficult they’re finding it to settle on one sound nowadays. That album is allegedly called Van Weezer, and when the opening guitar theatrics and crashing drums of The End Of The Game do indeed sound like a smashed mix of numerous Van Halen songs, it’s somewhat easy to see where they’re going. And like with most modern Weezer, it’s still reliant on cleaner production than it really needs, especially with the audible hiss that runs through the entirety of the chorus that feels like the nexus of everything blending together, but it’s hard to deny this isn’t one of the more propulsive melodies that Weezer have come up with recently, and Rivers Cuomo delivering an unsubtle hard rock chorus does do more for his untrained vocal style than a lot of their recent work. It still isn’t great, but it’s easier to see this one resonating more over time than anything from the last three Weezer albums, and while that doesn’t necessarily hint at anything to come, it’s a better start than they realistically should be having.
Turnover – Much After Feeling / Plant Sugar
The love that so many feel towards Turnover really can’t be overstated right now. They’re the sort of band who’ve laid down the strongest possible groundwork for the emo / shoegaze fusion that so many have tried to emulate, and with 2015’s Peripheral Vision still considered by many as the album to beat within that scene, there’s bound to be plenty of excitement going forward for new music. But with these two new tracks, it’s definitely not what was expected initially, with Much After Feeling being a lithe, laidback indie-pop cut, while Plant Sugar leans towards the jumpier guitars and drums of modern mainstream indie-rock. Of course, both are doused with an expectedly blurry filter to create a pair of sounds that remain rooted in at least relatively recognisable ground, but both are interesting moves in their own right, especially in their differing successes. Much After Feeling is the standout of the two with its sharpened, shuffling groove that’s phenomenally infectious all the way through, and while Plant Sugar feels arguably closer to trodden ground, there’s a threadbare quality to the guitars that doesn’t connect as well as it should, especially for a band for whom blanketed atmosphere is an imperative selling point. On the whole, both give a very uncertain impression of where Turnover are going for their next album and how much of a severing it’s really going to be, but the willingness to break out of a holding pattern should be commended regardless of how well it works at this very early stage. There’s a lot to keep an eye on with Turnover here, and for many, it’s hard to think of anything more exciting.
Touché Amoré – Deflector
After effectively vaulting themselves to the front of the emotional hardcore scene and cementing their place for the foreseeable future with 2016’s Stage Four, it feels about right that Touché Amoré are just making their return now. After all, that album was the sort of impossibly rigorous body of work that was bound to be draining to craft and experience, and thus Deflector feels like a welcome thing to come back to, on principle anyway. But while this isn’t necessarily a bad song, it’s a far cry from what Touché Amoré were delivering last time, mostly because it simply doesn’t have as high stakes to make Jeremy Bolm’s throat-ripping feel earned, this time coming across as more of a stylistic choice than an emotional one. At least the instrumentation remains just as high quality, with the bleeding guitars coalescing into echoes and vast backdrops in what can border on shoegaze at times, and presents a vision of something far bigger than an underground hardcore band without totally losing that drive. Granted, some does feel shaved off somewhere down the line, but Touché Amoré are still incredibly proficient at what they do, even if it’s not quite as high as it maybe could’ve been.
Waterparks – [Reboot]
It’s not that long until Waterparks’ new album is released, but it doesn’t feel as though there’s much excitement around it. Maybe it’s because none of the previously released tracks have been all that thrilling, but considering how much clout the trio have gained within pop-rock over the past couple of years, Fandom just seems to be coming around with next to no fanfare. And sadly, [Reboot] doesn’t look to be changing that either, dropping into dour electronic tones apparently pulling from emo-rap, both in the dreary, synthesised atmosphere and Awsten Knight’s very melancholic, spiteful tone, even if he can slide into some faster flows that are genuinely impressive. Above all though, there’s no real dynamic here, with everything blurring into one mass that has a decent sense of opulence to it in how the electronics flow and meld, but it either feels like filler or the customary weird turn on every Waterparks album rather than single material. It just doesn’t have enough about it to stand out all that much, and for as many different avenues as Waterparks are exploring with it, that’s kind of a shame.
WSTR – Filthy
As much as pop-punk has come under fire lately for its embrace of pop tones that tip the balance not necessarily in everyone’s favour, it’s hard to deny that WSTR have been on a real hot streak by embracing it. Identity Crisis is still a solid, fun album despite how unashamedly polished it can be, and Filthy seems to generally be keeping that trend up with another enjoyable track. To be totally honest, there’s an obnoxiousness to this one that manifests in Sammy Clifford’s almost spoken word ad-libs and rants (especially the bridge which feels a bit too long), and when they’ve managed to make it endearing in the past on a track like Crisis, that can feel like a bit of a step down. But there’s a nice, chunky bounce that matches WSTR’s more colourful presentation well, and to see they’re keeping up the more cartoony exuberance, particularly in the chorus, is nice to see given that they can sell it so well. Again, it leans into its slickness and brattiness a bit too much to heavily connect, but this is another solid track from a band who’ve found a way to take a brand of pop-punk that’s often incredibly stale and overall revitalise it.
nothing,nowhere. & Travis Barker – True Love
There’s been nothing just yet to suggest that the upcoming collaborative EP from nothing,nowhere. and Travis Barker is going to be anything close to excellent, but by the standards of emo-rap, Destruction at least had more cohesion and development than the swathes of imitators and copycats that so many pretend are worth their salt. True Love does as well, but maybe not to the same degree here, mostly because of Joe Mulherin’s rapping and how he awkwardly tries to shoehorn more standard trap flows and affectations into an instrumental that doesn’t suit them whatsoever. It’s a pretty solid instrumental too, with Barker’s steady yet powerful drumwork having real presence against mournful, echoing guitars that has a richness and melancholy that so much emo-rap lacks, and when Mulherin goes back into his more emotional delivery, it does connect rather well. It’s just a shame that doesn’t happen more often, and factoring in a prominent layer of AutoTune on top of it all, it only widens the chasm between both elements overall. It’s definitely not bad and preferable over most of what this sub-genre has to offer, but a few bad decisions prevent it from being something really great.
Anavae – Not Enough
You’d be forgiven for not remembering that Anavae released a new song just a few months ago, mostly because it doesn’t feel like this duo have advanced to a point that they can properly assimilate into any modern scene that’ll do them much good. Sure, their unashamedly huge, electronica-tinged Britrock was cutting-edge once upon a time, but right now it really feels like it’s going through the motions, and Not Enough doesn’t do anything to change that. Rebecca Need-Menear certainly has clarity in her vocals, and it captures a sense of epic scale fairly well, but with production that feels imported from about half a decade ago when fusing electronics and alt-rock was still relatively new, not to mention lyrics that aren’t exactly pushing any boats out themselves, and it feels as though Anavae are sticking to their template to the extent that they’ve fully blocked out everything going on around them. Kudos for pushing ahead, then, but when it amounts to so little, the effort just feels for naught.
Sights & Sounds – Resurface
Considering it’s been a decade since their critically-acclaimed debut full-length, it’s somewhat surprising that there’s not been more talk around Sights & Sounds’ newest album. To some degree it’s easy to understand given that they’re ostensibly a side-project and one that remained fairly underground, but the level of quality speaks for itself, especially on new song Resurface. For one, it’s an excellent display of Andrew Neufeld’s vocal versatility as the voracity of his Comeback Kid work is greatly eased back for tense, charged whispers that show a great amount of density against a lush alt-rock backdrop. There’s depth and weight here that eschews all notions of a side-project being rushed or throwaway, as Sights & Sounds show how capable of layered, thoughtful construction they are, with chugging guitars and drums tied together by ghostly synths for an alt-rock soundscape that does feel modern, but never uses that as an excuse for being complacent. This is the sort of stuff that’s immediately vital, but unveils itself more and more with each listen, and that’s the sign of a really great track.
Nova Twins – Vortex
Given the frankly surprising amounts of success that Devil’s Face has picked up, it was always going to be interesting to see how Nova Twins would follow it up, but at the same time, it’s been difficult to predict exactly how they’d do it. They’ve taken pride in the vast wealth of eclecticism in the past, something that the scuzzy, scrappy garage-punk of their last single touched on but fell slightly short of fully embracing. With Vortex though, rougher hip-hop flows crash against distorted, warped guitars with Amy Love’s searing presence behind the microphone capturing a real punk intensity that, alongside a fantastically propulsive sense of groove and gallop, really hits with force, even if the lyrics don’t feel as though they amount to much beyond embracing the chaos that’s being created. Still, that’s enough, and Nova Twins are adept enough at controlling the distortion within their sound to hit the brink of fully snapping without tilting directly into it, and that does them a great deal of good here. If anything, it makes the whole thing feel even better than Devil’s Face as a more succinct and infectious showcase of their musical breadth, while also showing how fantastic their command of it is.
Great Grandpa – Digger
Even among the tides of indie-rock bands constantly awash with critical acclaim, Great Grandpa have been getting notably more than most lately. To those savvy with how these scenes in particular work, it’s easy to dismiss that as their turn in the spotlight before getting cycled out in a couple of months’ time, but a track like Digger suggests much more, given just how rich and dark this is, especially compared to other acts in this lane. The spare acoustic guitars alone have more of a mournful quality against Alex Menne’s softer, cracking vocals (particularly on the slow-burning chorus with a breaking note that really just hits in a phenomenal way), but building into swathes of bleak, barren guitars and culminating in a solo ripe with tension makes it evident just how many layers have been piled on here. It’s all very appropriate for a song about messy, fragmented mental health, and Great Grandpa are able to totally sell it with the weight and gravity that it deserves. It’s no wonder that the acclaim has been so strong here, because this really is something terrific.
Young States – Stand Alone
On paper, Young States have laid down all the groundwork to take a real crack at making a serious mainstream impact. Sonically they’re falling somewhere in between the big, accessible alt-rock of Yonaka and the moodier atmosphere of PVRIS, and they’re finding a good way to fashion that into something decently hooky that’ll certainly grab enough attention. Stand Alone is a good example of that, with its swirling guitar progressions that are decently smooth without being polished into oblivion, and the steady tempo that’s just right for radio, even if the more anthemic end could do with a bit of tweaking. There’s clearly the desire to shoot for the stars here, but when everything feels strongly capped at a mid-level, including Georgia Leeder’s vocals which, in all honesty, don’t nearly have the firepower they should, it can feel like a bit of rote example of pop-rock done well enough, but without the necessary means of bringing it over the top. It’s certainly decent and worth keeping an eye on, but there’s more for Young States to do before they can really hit those heights.
Words by Luke Nuttall