By now, New Found Glory’s reputation within pop-punk doesn’t need to be reiterated. They’re easily one of the genre’s top acts in terms of both albums and infinitely ubiquitous singles, to the point where their first truly bad album came twenty years down the line with 2017’s Make Me Sick. It’s the sort of run of quality that’s decidedly abnormal but admirable for any band, and yet it doesn’t feel as though New Found Glory pull in the same levels of interest anymore. They’ve still got their fans, but for a band of this calibre, the excitement around Forever And Ever x Infinity feels distinctly muted. There’s plenty of scenarios that it can be chalked up to – the most reasonable of which being the fact that greater promotion just isn’t necessary for what’s ostensibly a legacy band – but the album leaking months ago, even before it became a casualty of release delay thanks to COVID-19, is something that can’t be ignored when exploring how uncommonly far on the back foot New Found Glory are heading into this campaign on. Even with the residual strength they’ve built up from their discography, they’re on uncharacteristically shaky ground, and that’s definitely noticeable.
But really, that might just be relative, as Forever And Ever x Infinity is not a bad album, even if it does represent a dip from the higher rungs of New Found Glory’s work. Even so though, that in itself isn’t really the standard, and that translates into an album that captures the essence of New Found Glory, but is also more bloated and less memorable than it should be. There’s nothing close to the immediate mega-hits that have littered their catalogue in the past, and for a decidedly simpler album that doesn’t hint towards growing into that, that can be rather disappointing on the whole. The closeness to the band’s traditional vision keeps it in the black, nowhere near to the extent that they’re so regularly capable of being.
And that might have something to do with the band on the pop-punk spectrum that New Found Glory have fallen closest to this time around – Bowling For Soup. The comparison makes sense, given that both are revered elder statesmen of the scene who’ve effectively been chugging along on inertia at this point, but moreso than any of their previous work, Forever… places its youthful focus through an older lens in a way that Bowling For Soup have effectively built the modern part of their brand on. It’s not like that doesn’t have charm either, in Jordan Pundik’s more schlubby portrayal of himself as a romantic partner on Double Chin For The Win and Same Side Sitters, or in something more directly wholesome like Stay Awhile and More And More, but across fifteen tracks, it can wear a bit thin, and it’s difficult to stay engaged through it all when the subject matter only goes through very slight changes. There’s a bit more of a leap taken on the final track Slipping Away in placing a more positive light at the end of a relationship that’s gradually degrading, but the combination of pretty simplistic theming and references to products that probably will date it to some degree leave Forever… as a bit more throwaway than New Found Glory albums tend to be. That isn’t even counting the more problematic elements carried over from Bowling For Soup on Himalaya and Trophy, where there’s clearly no malicious intent involved but some of the phrasing and word choices can make them feel a bit gaslight-y or objectifying, and that does sour them quite a bit.
As for the music itself, it’s basically the expected norm for a New Found Glory album which, in all honesty, does raise it up a bit in estimations. It’s always refreshing when New Found Glory stick with what they know and refuse to play the pop-punk game, and while there’s definitely polish here, the chunkiness and clear cues from backgrounds in hardcore haven’t been obscured by it. It’s not quite to the level of excellent balancing as Four Year Strong might accomplish, but there’s definitely a classic feel to the likes of Greatest Of All Time and Scarier Than Jason Vorhees At A Campfire, exacerbated by the fact that drummer Cyrus Bolooki remains one of the few in pop-punk to know how to make double-time rhythms actually sound good. As a fundamental outfit, there’s really very little to fault; they mightn’t be evolving much but they’ve more or less mastered what they know, and the fact they can maintain that punch through an entire album is testament to how good New Found Glory are. Of course, punch doesn’t necessarily equal staying power, and that’s probably the main issue that Forever… has. For a band who’ve always been buoyed the most by their hooks, Forever… is in disappointingly short supply of ones that really could stick or slot themselves into their discography long term. It’s a similar issue to Makes Me Sick, but having fifteen tracks this time around highlights it even more blatantly, even if the average quality is slightly higher this time around.
But with all of that, the problem becomes an album which feels sort of perfunctory above all, lacking in resonance that most New Found Glory albums have had no issue with and spreading what it does have a bit too thinly. There’s still enough solid moments that can be plucked out for a decent time, as is the case when a band develops a certain, distinctively high baseline of quality, but the cracks are easier to reveal themselves this time and it’s a lot less exciting as a result. It feels like New Found Glory are trying to balance a youthful attitude with an older viewpoint in a way that’s not sustainable for them, and that’s a shame considering the possibilities they have with an idea like that. They just aren’t going about it quite the right way, and a flabbier, less engaging end product shows.
For fans of: Four Year Strong, Bowling For Soup, The Ataris
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Forever And Ever x Infinity’ by New Found Glory is out now on Hopeless Records.