With this being their second release this year, it’s clear that Mark Hoppus and Alex Gaskarth are intending Simple Creatures to be more than just some sporadic side-project. Of course, that would read with a much more optimistic tone if the output was good, which up to now simply hasn’t been the case, given that Strange Love largely felt like a dumping ground for ideas that were probably too poppy or boring for either All Time Low or blink-182, even at their most poppy and boring. And yet, somehow people have bought into it enough to warrant another go-around, and even though this sort of entry-level alt-pop would be completely ignored without these two big names attached, Everything Opposite arrives as a second EP without much in the way in the prospect or hope going towards it. It’s not like this is going to be the sort of project blessed with a sudden surge of inspiration at the eleventh hour to fully turn it around, and off the back of Hoppus routinely being the weakest part of blink-182’s last album, the expectations of anything good with Everything Opposite are pretty diminished, to put it mildly.
It’s not like that’s a wrong assumption to make either; on the whole, this is somewhat of an improvement over Strange Love, but as far as presences within mainstream pop-rock go, Simple Creatures continue to prove just how unnecessary of a project this really is. They’re not adding anything substantive to the formula, and with the sheer amount of pointless decisions and botched executional tactics, it’s not even like this is an entertaining listen most of the time. It’s side-project status feels blatant, and when Hoppus and Gaskarth are seemingly leaning into that rather than trying to break it down, the results feel just as stagnant and stilted as they always have.
To be fair though, it’s easy enough to see where the improvements are present, especially when viewed back-to-back with its predecessor. Lyrically, there’s definitely more detail to songs like One Little Lie and NVM that at least makes it seem as though some effort has been put in (even if thematically they remain locked tight in the modern pop-rock framework), and a moments of instrumental flair and sparkle aren’t as restricted this time around. The snappy beat and deeper bass of One Little Lie and the smoother strut of Need Me pulling from modern indie-pop are likable, and even if there’s not too much innovative about them, the fact that they can generously be applied to a level of quality expected for a side-project is a start, regardless of how miniscule it is.
But when that’s the higher bar set by two renowned musicians who’ve achieved much, much more over the years, it’s still not even close to being a success, and factoring in basically everything else about Everything Opposite, it feels as though neither Hoppus nor Gaskarth are really trying all that hard to achieve much. Given how bored and monotone both of their vocal performances are throughout, it never feels like the pop vigour that both are so capable of was even included in the equation, but what’s even more striking is just how amateurish moments of this EP can feel. Sure, the intent to pair sharper alt-pop sounds with more of a rock roughness is understandable, but with how jammed together tracks like Special or Thanks, I Hate It can be, where smacking lumps of percussion clatter among an absolutely horrendous guitar tone that’s buzzed-out and discordant to the point of being unlistenable, it’s hard to even argue that that’s a cogent creative decision and not lacking in basic competence. The true nadir comes with The Wolf, an absolute wretched track without even a hint of form to its scuzzy synth grinds and lumbering guitars and percussion, feeling like pieces from the cutting room floor tossed together rather than assembled and left with polish not even given a second thought. It’s genuinely baffling how a track this messy can be left on a big, major label EP like this, but when quality control comes second to a couple of well-known names within the credits, the lack of care is at least straightforward to trace.
And that feels like the bottom line with Simple Creatures at this stage – Gaskarth and Hoppus know they’ve got the industry clout to put anything down and get away with it, and while the potential for any experimentation is noble, the fact that the results feel as slapdash as this shows how little worth is left in this project. There’s nothing that stands as superior here compared to so many others in their scene, and while flashes of quality are a more welcome concession that previous, they still can’t make up for an EP that, for the majority of the time, struggles to sound as though it’s even interested in arranging its ideas into a workable fashion. Right now, Simple Creatures remain one of the most unnecessary prospects within the poppier side of modern rock’s upper echelon, and when a vanity project can’t even be vain with some degree of conviction or intrigue, that pretty much just says it all.
For fans of: Waterparks, I Don’t Know How But They Found Me, blink-182
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Everything Opposite’ by Simple Creatures is out now on BMG Rights Management.