Looking through everything they’ve done up to now, it’s easy to reach the conclusion that New Politics are effectively done at this point. They might have started off as a modestly likable little pop-rock band on their first two albums, and while that did diminish on their forgettable 2015 effort Vikings, it was shed entirely on 2017’s Lost In Translation, an album that doubled down on the propensity to ride the alt-pop wave and effectively emulate Twenty One Pilots to the letter to see some success which never came. That really should’ve been the kicker; on the whole, Lost In Translation barely made a single dent in that notoriously implacable scene, and rather than actually sit back and assess the situation to see what would be a more viable option, An Invitation To An Alternate Reality immediately comes across like a band rushing headlong into their own demise. There’s been no hype around this whatsoever, and between the truncated promotional schedule and the fact that it doesn’t even clock in a half-an-hour, this could very well be where the ball has been dropped entirely.
But really, even that might be saying too much, as it’s not like An Invitation To An Alternate Reality delivers anything radically different from where all its signs pointed towards. It’s most certainly a failure in its inability to foster any sort of interest even among such a brief runtime, but it does so in such a plaintive and predictable way, with New Politics burrowing even further into the alt-pop bedrock to nab the deepest-seated tropes for themselves and regurgitate them wholesale. They still want to be Twenty One Pilots, that much is obvious, but they genuinely couldn’t have made it more blatant than it is here, and alongside shades of Panic! At The Disco and Fall Out Boy to fill some gaps in an already threadbare canvas, there’s a severe lack of individuality that makes why this album even exists feel surpremely questionable.
It’s even more difficult to make any sorts of concessions this time as well, as New Politics seem to have no interest in even attempting to hide how vehemently they’re rehashing these sounds with less flair and personality than their originals. It’s right from the album’s very first moment too, with the horns and self-esteem-anthem stomp of Unstoppable being a pretty direct riff on Panic! At The Disco’s High Hopes, before that same song breaks itself into the reggae stiffness of Twenty One Pilots circa 2013 while feeling just as drained. It’s indicative of how few ideas New Politics actually have of their own, extending to the lumpy pop percussiveness of Ozone and the trap influences glugging down AutoTune on Suspension showing an inability to run with a certain sound that makes such a frank derivativeness feel all the more galling. That generally makes it all the less surprising that John Feldmann’s fingerprints are on this album, especially with production as drained and lacking in warmth as this is, but it also results in any decidedly passable moments feeling so much more like flukes. That’s not to diminish how refreshing it is to have actual quality appear on this album – there’s at least a catchiness to the more standard pop-rock of Let Your Head Go / Pretend It’s 1995 & Talk and the defined disco strut of Death Of Me that’s honestly not too bad – but even they’re bogged down by how blatantly a lack of identity prevents An Invitation To An Alternate Reality from forging its own path, or really going anywhere at all. It’s all tied together by David Boyd’s voice sounding more like Tyler Joseph than ever before, and how that only further underlines New Politics’ lack of motivation for actually doing their own thing, rather than pillaging from those who’ve already seen success from it.
The same could perhaps by attributed to the writing as well, but that would be to assume that such broad themes about relationships and mental turmoil that stick so rigidly to those guidelines were ever original to begin with. And honestly, what New Politics are doing here isn’t the most egregious example ever, but you’d think for a band so content leaving originality at the door in the sound, the impetus to do something more in other areas would at least be there in some capacity. Instead, it’s the usual fare with no personality that evaporates on impact, only saved from worse by capping out at forgettability instead tipping into being outright awful. It’s hardly preferable, but it’s certainly something, and while it’s hard to call that any sort of selling point here, it’s not as though something like Live The Life / It’s The Thought That Counts is absolutely terrible at channelling some more pop-rock positivity. Of course, calling that a positive would be clutching at straws to the point of making them unrecognisably mangled; it’s still indicative of a complete lack of creative drive on New Politics’ part, and really only makes this album feel less necessary when piled atop everything else.
And that’s the most damning indictment possible towards An Invitation To An Alternate Reality – when alt-pop as a whole is currently so homogeneous and content with hemming itself in as much as possible, the last thing that’s needed is another band doing the exact same thing. And while the argument could be made that that’s been on the cards for New Politics for a few years now, this album feels like the final straw in turning them into an act that’s about as unneeded as it gets. This isn’t the worst album ever (hell, it’s not even the worst album in this scene to be released this year), but it’s hard to think of one that’s had less thought put into it, seemingly pumped out to try and regain some vestige of momentum that the last few years have spent haemorrhaging, but achieving the complete opposite. If this is where New Politics call it a day, it won’t be too surprising; they clearly don’t have all that much left to offer.
For fans of: Twenty One Pilots, Panic! At The Disco, Fall Out Boy
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘An Invitation To An Alternate Reality’ by New Politics is out now on Big Noise Entertainment Group.