Boston Manor’s Welcome To The Neighbourhood wasn’t so much a turning point for them as it was a complete upheaval of everything that had defined them up to that point. What was once a gritty, emo-tinged pop-punk band had metamorphosed into a lethal beast, draped in blackened, industrial gloom with ferocious intent driven by the harshness of the home environment around them. It was a distinct, explicitly left field move, and one that completely divorced them from the scene in which they’d found their feet. But even then, that proved to be the best thing; not only was Welcome To The Neighbourhood a fantastic album, but it was a mission statement of how far Boston Manor can really go, to the point that no other band behind them has attempted to make a similar transition. That can all make GLUE appear as though it’s coming a bit earlier than anticipated; Welcome To The Neighbourhood was such a vast shakeup that the reverberations it left could need time to settle, but here’s a follow-up arriving not even two years later, with a lead single that was ushered into the world almost a full year ago. And yet, where that could be cause for concern, Boston Manor have established a pedrigree that goes far beyond their more modest roots, and if they’re looking to strike again while the iron is still as red-hot as it is, all the faith in the world is going to them.
But even so, this feels like a move that really surpasses the magnitude of what really could’ve been expected. Not have Boston Manor sought to replicate the direction they went in last time, but they’ve actively built on it even further, to the point where they’re now entirely unrecognisable from the band they once were. And it’s worth stressing how that couldn’t possibly have been better for them; not only has GLUE widened the gulf between Boston Manor and the rest of the pack behind them, but it’s arguably armoured them to extent where they’re basically untouchable at this stage. You’ll find few mainstream rock bands looking to plumb depths this oppressive and uncomfortable, but Boston Manor unequivocally pull it off, if anything even better than before.
The evolution is immediately noticeable too, right from the abrasive grind that slices through the punk rampage of Everything Is Ordinary to signify how even the slightest trace of pop-punk has been torn asunder, and replaced by production that’s even more dense and imposing. Even more so that Welcome To The Neighbourhood, it’s almost metallic in the sheer heft of sound that Boston Manor create, with the guitars turned up heavier than even to widen the wall-of-sound approach even further, and Dan Cunniff’s bass work given some excellent opportunities to lend a more sinister tones to Only1 and Ratking. It’s uncompromising, to the point where the de-emphasised hooks feel like a way to nail down the tension and pressure even further, but this is as magnetic as it gets regardless. There’s still moments of towering scope on Plasticine Dreams and Liquid, and slower, more vulnerable turns on On A High Ledge and Stuck In The Mud, but with production this effective at washing everything in bleak, steely coldness, the sound and quality is absolutely phenomenal. And then there’s Henry Cox to tie it all together, nailing the balance between rage and dejection in his vocals that an album like this demands, but widening his range for an even more powerful showing that culminates on Monolith that sounds borderline like a Beartooth song. In almost every way, GLUE feels like a tremendous advancement in what Boston Manor are capable of, all while holding on to everything that made Welcome To The Neighbourhood feels so vital.
That includes the writing, which sees the band turn their despondency and frustration away from just their Blackpool home and present it to the wider world at large. That does mean that GLUE is a much broader album that explores themes that have been well-covered before, but the crucial edge that Boston Manor now have ensures it’s never boring or pallidly told. This is commentary that feels so fearless in its execution, with the stage set once again on Everything Is Ordinary, a gnashing broadside towards a world in which tragedy has become seen as just another everyday occurrence. The focus on humanity lends extra weight too, from highlighting how generational divides have gotten no less fractured post-Brexit on 1’s & 0’s and a culture in which arguing and sniping has become more important than actually making a change on Ratking, to how hollow and vapid the desire for virality has become on Plasticine Dreams and how its eclipsed so much that’s meaningful, to the general apathy displayed by those who pay no attention to genuine plights in the vain beliefs that they have it worse on Only1. It’s consistently raw and venomous, made all the more potent by Cox turning the focus onto himself to examine his own damaged mental state on Terrible Love, and the way that the pressure to conform to outdated masculine roles has affected him on On A High Ledge and Stuck In The Mud. It’s fittingly dark and feels like such a natural fit amongst the backdrop that Boston Manor conjure, especially in Cox’s performance as a frontman and the force with which all of this is executed. There’s genuine depth in how the stark the image of degrading, monochrome world is painted, and backed by a sound that gives the same impression only makes it all the more powerful.
But for GLUE as a whole, it’s not the sort of album that words can do justice for, such is the leap that Boston Manor have made and how thoroughly captivating it is. It’s still almost inconceivable that this band was once just another body that had come off the pop-punk assembly line, but their consistent leaps from strength to strength have taken them here, to where they’re virtually untouchable and have achieved the Holy Grail that all bands strive for of being completely their own thing. In the higher tiers of modern rock, there’s not a single band that sounds like this band anymore, and the fact they’ve used that to craft such a vital, uncompromising narrative that goes further than most acts of their standing would dare to says a lot about how deeply into their potential Boston Manor have tapped. Once again, they’ve defied the odds and any expectations by an almost frightening degree, and that doesn’t look like it’s slowing down any time soon.
For fans of: Fever 333, Beartooth, Movements
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘GLUE’ by Boston Manor is released on 1st May on Pure Noise Records.