The Soundboard Stereo – September 2019

After a few months’ hiatus to get through the madness of festival season, The Soundboard Stereo is back, and landing at the point of the year where everyone seems to be releasing new music. That’s far from a bad thing, especially when a good deal of it has actually had a fair amount of quality, but for the rest of September and going through October, the surge of major releases doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Until then though, here’s what’s been on The Soundboard Stereo in September…

blink-182 – Enema Of The State

The bands that made up the pop-punk scene of 1999 are unsurprisingly very different beasts in 2019. Sum 41 are still releasing records but will forever be in the shadow of All Killer, No Filler, while Green Day are officially past the point of no return, bringing their rehashed, uninspired dad-punk to stadiums all over the world. The current iteration of blink-182 seem to be at a level where the music-making process is still fun for them, but for plenty of fans their glory days are certainly over, a period represented by scene classic record Enema Of The State. There’s a reason why it’s the most well-known blink-182 album two decades after its release, and it’s not just because it’s home to mega-singles All The Small Things and What’s My Age Again?. Aside from having pop-punk banger after pop-punk banger, it encompasses everything quintessential about the band. These are songs that encapsulate youth, always coming from a personal place whether it’s outlandishly silly (Dysentery Gary) or truly emotional (Adam’s Song). These are awkward stages we’ve all been through – clingy, insecure, lost – delivered with a self-assured sense of humour and a realness that everyone can relate to at least a little bit. While Tom DeLonge’s career-best vocal takes mostly ended up on the band’s self-titled record, All The Small Things and Dysentery Gary are present for overexaggerated yowling singalongs synonymous with blink’s original lineup. Enema Of The State is unequivocally a product of its time, but it’s a throwback that doesn’t feel strange or embarrassing to revisit, an enviable longevity for any artist. • GJ

Choice picks: Aliens Exist, What’s My Age Again?, Adam’s Song

A Day To Remember – What Separates Me From You

If Homesick was the album that saw A Day To Remember condensing their once-disparate mix of pop-punk and metalcore, What Separates Me From You felt like their attempt at seeing what they could really do with it. 2nd Sucks and You Be Tails, I’ll Be Sonic brings the crushing metalcore noise with Jeremy McKinnon at his most vocally forceful and acerbic, while It’s Complicated and If I Leave fully bring the hooks and pop flavouring to the boil with the sort of enormous melodies that represent towering examples of pop-punk done right. And yet, it’s telling that where A Day To Remember shine brightest is when the two are blended in what was their most cohesive form to date, bringing a sense of crunch and danger to tracks that still don’t skimp on their radio-readiness. All I Want is the prime example as the lead single ushering in the moment where A Day To Remember would become a true force in modern rock, but there’s a sourness and tension to Better Off This Way that’s so compelling, and This Is The House That Doubt Built is towering emo balladry in a way that felt distinctly fresh for this band at the time, and while the formula would be revisited on Common Courtesy’s End Of Me a few years later, it’s still the definitive example in A Day To Remember’s canon. Putting all of that together, What Separates Me From You is perhaps A Day To Remember’s most important album to date, establishing each element that would only get better later on, and laying down the groundwork for the true juggernaut they’d soon become. And given just how good it is, it’s no wonder that became the case. • LN

Choice picks: All Signs Point To Lauderdale, It’s Complicated, Better Off This Way

The 1975 – The 1975

The 1975 are one of the biggest prospects in alternative music right now, even at the helm of what feels like their very own movement, both musically and politically. Their eponymous debut album is their most cohesive release, but also their least boundary-pushing by far. Hazy, pretentious but still youthful and down-to-earth describes the self-titled 1975 era to a T – something like M.O.N.E.Y. with its conversational and on-the-nose lyrics about drug use, would likely never be included on one of their albums now (despite being a huge fan favourite). Unlike a number of fellow up-and-coming indie bands around The 1975’s release though, the band were far from their final form, something understandably responsible for the few missteps here. The inconsistency of the second half of the record is not down to admirable experiments failing to pay off, but rather the less interesting excuse of much more filler like She Way Out and Menswear making the final cut. The highlights of this tracklisting definitely still hold up now, though. The shimmering indie pop of Settle Down, The City and Girls can spark a carefree dance party in seconds, Robbers is still a stunning epic whose lyrics (which convey a toxic relationship in a Bonnie and Clyde-type situation) remain unparalleled, and of course the quintessential singles Sex and Chocolate need no introduction. Even though The 1975 have evolved into a more grandiose, arena-headlining, their debut definitely still holds up today, and certainly more so than many of their counterparts. • GJ

Choice picks: M.O.N.E.Y., Chocolate, Robbers

You Me At Six – Sinners Never Sleep

It’s been a rough time for You Me At Six lately, with the creative stagnation that’s well and truly taken ahold on their last couple of albums, and given that they’re apparently shooting for more new music this summer, that doesn’t look to be letting up any time soon. Going back to Sinners Never Sleep though, this was a time when there was actual excitement around what this band would put out, with the first signs of them shedding their clean-cut pop-rock image for something a bit edgier and more grown-up. Guest spots from Bring Me The Horizon’s Oli Sykes and Parkway Drive’s Winston McCall were easy first signs, but the swaggering bass grooves driving opener Loverboy and the big arena-rock riffs of Jaws On The Floor and Reckless feel like a band growing out of what they once were while still keeping their recognisable ethos intact. Indeed, the earnestness doesn’t go away, especially as tracks like No One Does It Better and Crash go full lighters-in-the-air ballad, but the energy and life has merely been repurposed to a sound that’s more forceful and rugged, yet would still fit snugly into any radio playlists that decided to pick it up. It’s one of the reasons why this remains You Me At Six’s best album; it expanded their reach without compromising their overall vision, and when looking back through what their career ultimately became, it’s the only album of theirs to really do that in any workable capacity. • LN

Choice picks: Reckless, Time Is Money, No One Does It Better

Mark Ronson – Late Night Feelings

As probably the most well-known producer in pop music, the way Mark Ronson has crafted out a celebrity status for manning the boards in the studio shouldn’t be a rarity in the industry. He was a huge part of the late Amy Winehouse’s career and made Uptown Funk, one of the decade’s most inescapable pop songs. Latest album Late Night Feelings is a more mature feeling step in a way; it’s a project about heartbreak and love in all their forms, and Ronson’s trust in female artists to carry the songs feels on-the-pulse as well as righting a wrong in a way (his last record, 2015’s Uptown Special, featured a grand total of one woman). He does attempt to adapt his production in order to lift a few of his guest vocalists up further too, adding twinkly keyboards to Lykke Li’s title track and 2am and giving Miley Cyrus a galloping country instrumental to work her magic over on brilliant single Nothing Breaks Like A Heart. He’s not looking to replicate the bombastic funk of Uptown Special, but to create an evolved, more tasteful sound. Lush strings are a common device used to bulk up standardised pop templates, plus helping create a beautiful opening prelude. Promising as all this sounds though, much of the time this record feels pretty faceless, slapping talented artists (like up-and-comer YEBBA whose vocals are a total scene stealer) onto backgrounds that mostly could have been made by any pop artist. Find U Again featuring Camila Cabello is only one of the more memorable cuts because of the main vocal melody that’s simple enough to wrap itself around your brain and cringeworthy lyrics. While the record is an interesting concept, there are only a few tracks on here worth revisiting, a shame considering the talent of every single contributor. • GJ

Choice picks: Late Night Feelings, Truth, Nothing Breaks Like A Heart

Deaf Havana – Rituals

Looking back on when Deaf Havana released Rituals last year, it feels as though it came and went without much of anything. Many weren’t thrilled about a more electronically-driven focus and how thinned-out it could feel overall (ourselves included), but revisiting that album has revealed a lot more to like about it than was maybe initially revealed. That’s not to say it’s fantastic by any means, especially with a second half that still almost totally dissipates, but isolate its best moments, and Rituals proves to be yet another reason why Deaf Havana stand atop the Britrock pile as far as sheer quality of output goes. For one, tracks like Hell and Holy bring a lot of genuine creativity into their synth work as opposed to slapping them on to mindlessly grab at contemporary tones, and built into the pulsating dance-rock of Sinner or the sweeping pop-rock of Worship, they’re really potent moments. And while the songwriting still doesn’t hold a candle to their best work, there is emotional weight to the likes of Ritual and Saviour that would be unfair to denigrate, particularly in the context of the uncharted waters that Deaf Havana ventured in on this album. So overall, while Rituals still isn’t fantastic, it’s aged a lot better than these sorts of albums should, and that’s a credit to Deaf Havana for doing what they did to pull this off. • LN

Choice picks: Sinner, Saviour, Holy

Words by Luke Nuttall (LN) and Georgia Jackson (GJ)

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