It goes without saying that Bellevue Days’ debut album has been a long time coming, but maybe it’s been a bit too long. A few years ago, they were regularly heralded as one of the most promising acts in the current wave of Britrock, blending dense emo melodies with poignant songwriting and the perfect sense of tonality for a handful of EPs that stood head and shoulders above so many of their contemporaries. But it’s been two years since their last, and the scene has continued to shift and evolve to the point where Bellevue Days have basically been overtaken completely. Bands have found more success with the sound they had locked down, and the fact that they’re only now putting it to a full-length release means that they’ve got more of an uphill struggle than ever before. Still, talent does come first at the end of the day, and between previous material and the singles from this album being as characteristically strong as ever, it’s not like It Can’t Possibly Go Wrong Ever runs the risk of falling in any severe or unexpected way.
But on that same token, it might be why this album can often feel a bit too safe. It must be stressed that It Can’t Possibly Go Wrong Ever is far from bad, and in keeping Bellevue Days secure as a consistently solid and reliable emo band, nothing has changed, but it also doesn’t feel like much has been done to catch up with the pack that’s left them behind. It’s not quite the home run that it frankly needed to be, and while pretty much everything that it does do has the emotional stakes and personal weight that’s always been a key factor of their music, that added bit of wow factor just isn’t there. Again, it’s certainly good, but a couple of necessary measures added in could’ve taken it to greatness.
It’s really not in any specific area that Bellevue Days fall short, either; when viewed as a whole piece, it’s not like any specific area can be singled out as a weak link. That’s a good quality to have as well, especially in a genre like emo that, with its current state of overcrowding, relies on bands that can maintain that balance within their sound to really make a mark. Indeed, with tracks like Jouska and S.A.D drawing on the bounding, big-hearted melodies that have characterised Britrock for the best part of a decade, there’s a definite case to be made for Bellevue Days filling in a similar slot to a band like Jimmy Eat World at times, but substituting their starry-eyed grandeur for something a bit more homespun and earthy. The wiry tension of Shotgun and the accentuated low-ends of Dashboard Jesus and Freakin Out do convey that notion well in the way that Bellevue Days shift their focus from brighter pop melodies to something more rugged and substantive without ever smothering that poppiness completely, and that provides an extremely workable and enjoyable foundation throughout. But again, this all does feel familiar, and while Bellevue Days proved incredibly adept at bending this formula in whatever way they require, it’s still not enough to prevent moments like The Greatest Demise or Sleep Repeat Again from feeling like retreads of a lot of what emo has been doing for the past few years (or even, occasionally, what Bellevue Days themselves are doing on this very album). That in itself isn’t a bad thing – each piece does come together to make a complete listen – but going the extra mile could’ve really made these songs something more, and the fact that the band haven’t strived to do that in a more emphatic fashion can feel like a shame.
The same criticism can really be made of the writing as well, but at least here, the smartness and interwoven lyrical and thematic layers can pull off a lot more of the heavy lifting. It’s good that that’s here most of all, especially on an emo album whose focus is placed so heavily on states of depression and gloom that seem to be enveloping everyone, and how such a familiar thematic line can be spun to make it more interesting. It’s hardly surprising that a good portion of that comes from vocalist Alan Smith’s own sense of inner turmoil, and while a moment of self-deprecating humour like the line “I trade my happiness for songs / ‘Cause they sound better when I feel like shite” on Jouska is refreshing, the presentation of him as an openly flawed narrator does feel a lot more powerful. With how much the situation is rooted in personal feelings of inadequacy that aren’t always driven by logic, there’s the necessary acknowledgement of the gnawing dichotomy between trying to keep that depression hidden and the frustration felt when friends don’t pay attention to it on S.A.D, and how much society has coloured the notion of suicide being an easy way out on Dashboard Jesus feels especially unfiltered when, from Smith’s own perspective, he seems to have been conditioned to buy it himself. If the entirety of this album consisted of these sorts of moments, it could rise above the aforementioned instrumental shortcomings and become something great, but that’s sadly not the case, and those pockets of greatness once again don’t translate across the whole thing. It’s not even like everything else is all that objectionable either, but when placed next to layered, mountainous statements of emotional inadequacy that Bellevue Days are capable of and bring to the table on this album, there’s a relatively lack of adventurousness that can make the likes of The Greatest Demise and Sleep, Repeat, Again feel kind of by-the-numbers. The distance between the peaks and troughs really are noticeable, and while they’re nothing terribly disruptive, it does feel as though Bellevue Days are capable of more overall.
And yet, when averaging everything out on It Can’t Possibly Go Wrong Ever, what’s left is the sort of resoundingly solid to good album that, despite some clear dips, is able to satisfy a lot more often than it doesn’t. Sure, there’s more that Bellevue Days could do with their sound in order to once again solidify their place among British emo’s top tier, but if they’re looking to make their way back up the ladder organically, an album like this isn’t going to hurt, with moments proving they’re still capable of something truly special alongside others that are still perfectly decent in their own right. Regardless of how uneven that might make it seem, there’s still a lot to like here; it’s difficult to pick out anything all that bad, and while it would’ve better for Bellevue Days’ return to have them operating at full capacity, an album like this still hits the right notes to impress.
For fans of: Black Foxxes, Basement, Jimmy Eat World
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘It Can’t Possibly Go Wrong Ever’ by Bellevue Days is released on 22nd November.