Surely everyone knows how this script goes by now, right? Maroon 5 continue to drift away from even the slightest vestige of rock that their roots might’ve held into the most commercially-minded pop imaginable, where every member of the band (which has currently ballooned to six members, for the record) is sidelined behind Adam Levine and his transparent desire to be the single-minded star. It’s been the case for years now, it’s nothing new, and yet every time, Maroon 5 just seem to find a way for it to ring as so much more slimy than the last. Just take this album, with a title in dedication to their late manager Jordan Feldstein, yet finds its version of their intimate tribute to the past in Memories affixed with a posthumous verse from Nipsey Hussle. That really just sums up the musical philosophy of modern Maroon 5, where the thinnest skin of emotionality is presented at the surface, but it’s the ploys for profit that take up a disproportionate amount of space. There are allusions made to losing someone across the album, though it’s kept unspecific enough to apply to virtually any situation, and as a song like Beautiful Mistakes would assert, it’s more likely to be framed through a generic breakup song lens. Elsewhere, Nobody’s Love is apparently about COVID-19 and the George Floyd protests, though you’d be hard pressed to find where given that it’s more or less the same blandness. Even for modern charting pop, which has now reached it point where it can be more incisive and thoughtful, Maroon 5 just have no indication of how to sound sincere, or as though they’re not riding a pop wave that it’s pretty much exclusively them on now. That’s only further compounded by how utterly disinterested Adam Levine sounds here, where he might stay largely clear of his caterwauling falsettos (although when they do show on Echo, they somehow feel perfunctory), but the total disconnect from anything remotely passionate that swallows Lovesick and especially Seasons is palpable.
It’s so obvious that the guest stars are relied upon to buoy JORDI up in a way that Maroon 5 themselves are simply incapable of, but that in itself reveals a creative direction that’s so nakedly flippant, where the sole sources of personality within these songs barely have anything to bring, and it’s their names alone that are left as the draw. When Stevie Nicks is left to sing backing vocals on Remedy, and Can’t Leave You Alone pilfers more posthumous scraps, this time from Juice WRLD in what amounts to a worthless total of four lines, there’s no reason that they’re actually here beyond the brand synergy that’s Maroon 5’s clear M.O. at this stage. It’s borderline miraculous that Megan Thee Stallion gets an opportunity to both sing and rap on Beautiful Mistakes, and H.E.R. must have some significant dirt of Levine, given that she not only gets a full verse to herself on Convince Me Otherwise, but it’s by far the most lushly-produced and expensive sounding song on the whole album. And that’s the other thing that modern Maroon 5 can never even come close to getting right – if they’re adamant about sticking in pop, there’s no reason that a band of their stature couldn’t afford to go for broke and really sell what they’ve got, instead of defaulting to cheap, desaturated tones and a tropical palette that’s unfathomably out of style right now. It only makes the likes of Lost and Lovesick sound incredibly thin and throwaway, or result in a frankly insulting approximation of Afrobeat on One Light that has nothing close to tone or texture. There’s no adequate reason why laziness like this is the prevalent thing Maroon 5 are known for nowadays; they at least used to have some aptitude within funk and firepower, and there’s barely even an echo of that now. More likely than not, it’s endemic of how deeply the state of complacency Maroon 5 have fallen into is, where they really don’t need to care about the music they make, as long as the right names are attached and it’ll still be held up by guaranteed radio play. It’s been like that for a while, truth be told, but on an album like JORDI, which actually tries to sell itself with some form of reverence and deeper emotional payoff, that’s inexcusable. It’s the difference between disposable pop music and lampshading tragedy with no intent to do more with it, something which can leave this album as borderline indefensible.
For fans of: blackbear, Justin Bieber, The Jonas Brothers
‘JORDI’ by Maroon 5 is out now on Interscope Records.
No Gods No Masters
Here’s a question – of the first wave of Britrock, have Garbage aged the best? Obviously that crown was never going to go to the proto-indie crowd that were good but have been ultimately smudged by what came in their wake, and a band like Skunk Anansie, while being a very important both then and now, haven’t delivered as high quality in recent years. With Garbage, their trip-hop side mightn’t hold much prominence nowadays, but even as recently as 2016 with Strange Little Birds, they’ve found ways to reshape themselves to not necessarily thrive in a modern climate, but act as a solid ballast within it. In that case, perhaps ‘aged the best’ isn’t the most accurate terminology; rather they’re in a position that lets them do a lot more than what the majority of their peers would be capable of. They’re definitely stretching themselves further than they’re likely supposed to on No Gods No Masters, which largely falls into the rare camp of a late-stage political album that doesn’t actually boil down the issues to their simplest and borderline most meaningless idea. There’s the examination of corrupt power structures on The Men Who Rule The World and Godhead, tied into a fragmented, unstable view of the self on Uncomfortably Me and Wolves, and the need for protests in a system that remains fundamentally broken and inequitable on Waiting For God. On its face, the writing is also a lot more explicit in its word choices which, accompanied by a more vicious vocal performance from Shirley Manson, brings forth a sense of power that mightn’t fly out as readily as some, but curdles beneath the surface much more insidiously. It’s an approach favouring the long game that’s very indicative of where Garbage are as a band, staying within their wheelhouse in terms of intensity but willing to develop those harder edges all the same.
In terms of actual music, No Gods No Masters is a bit more hit-or-miss, but also in a way that’s to be expected. After all, it’s not like Garbage’s recent material has tried to update an electro-rock sound that’s still quintessentially rooted in the ‘90s, despite having arguably the most built-in contemporaneity of their scene. To be fair though, it’s only all that evident in the slower moments like Uncomfortably Me and Waiting For God, striving for grand enormity but winding up as heavy and lumbering in a less-than-appealing way. Elsewhere, the buzzier synth tone and guitar pickups mightn’t be as forward-looking as the content wants to extol, but in fostering a grimy, almost dystopian soundscape with which to house it, the tense gait and sharp edges of Wolves and Flipping The Bird does it incredibly well, as does Anonymous XXX which is clearly drawing from previous songs like Queer in its slinkier, headier sound. It’s impressive how closely Garbage remain to their classic sound without feeling too dated or out of their league, something that’s always been a key strength of their work in their modern era, but perhaps feels even more pronounced on No Gods No Masters. Maybe it’s how a lot of the writing bolsters the overall experience, or maybe because there’s a clearer industrial influence in the guitars and bass that lodges it more within that lane, but it makes for a compelling listen seemingly against all odds. Garbage aren’t a band who’ll attract a huge younger following, and while they’re leaning into that to an extent, they also show it’s not a result of sounding old or pandering to a pre-existing audience. They’re still willing to push themselves and not rest on their laurels, and that’s appreciated when striving to go as far as this album does.
For fans of: Hole, Skunk Anansie, PJ Harvey
‘No Gods No Masters’ by Garbage is out now on STUNVOLUME / Infectious Music.
KennyHoopla & Travis Barker
SURVIVORS GUILT: THE MIXTAPE//
It’s no secret that Travis Barker has been pretty much running the show when it comes to the most modern wave of pop-punk, especially through giving rappers a course alteration that – let’s be honest – they probably wouldn’t have undergone on their own accord. With KennyHoopla though, the situation is a bit different, where he was already in the rap-rock lane that intersected with indie-rock and dance-punk for a pretty distinct flavour, as far as this crowd is concerned. It makes the transition feel a lot smoother, and the fact that SURVIVORS GUILT… sees Barker taking equal credit implies something with a bit more to it than the norm; for all his involvement on Machine Gun Kelly’s Tickets To My Downfall, the conspicuous lack of a credit does feel noteworthy when he was ultimately the best part of that album. Here though, the quality is much more evenly distributed, given that KennyHoopla is easily the most engaging presence this scene has produced to date, and for a release barely cracking 20 minutes, SURVIVORS GUILT… really does impress with how many ideas it’s the best at performing. The production is far fuller and meatier, free of the cheapness and perfunctory trap beats that ultimately hold this scene back, and instead embraces a brand of pop-punk more in line with New Found Glory or even Four Year Strong at times. The fact that inside of heaven’s mouth, there is a sweet tooth// can make a legitimate pivot towards emotional hardcore is easily the further this scene has reached, but even just on silence is also an answer// and estella//, the experience is so much bigger and more lively. Even just on a production basis, you can tell this is coming from a more rock-oriented artist, when the guitars are significantly less filmy, and the integration of synths and atmospheric effects is a lot more tasteful on the whole. Then there’s Barker who, of course, gives a drum performance that’s layered and detailled, probably more than a sound like this really needs, but compared to other times, the effort can at least mesh with everything else around it, to where it doesn’t feel like the sole force carrying a project that’s flagging in all other departments.
And yes, that does include the writing here, the other big reason for why KennyHoopla is so enormously ahead of his competition. Thematically, the touchstones of youthful exuberance and muddling through haphazardly are delivered with a considerable amount of deftness; rarely will there be a cliché turn of phrase that others are liable to lean on almost exclusively, instead bringing out images like “white dress in a Ferris Bueller” that are so evocative just on their own, or crucially, injecting a degree of humour into hollywood sucks// that’s been sadly ignored by everyone else, but is extremely welcome. For all the pretensions towards exhuming the ‘classic’ pop-punk sound that this scene has, KennyHoopla is really the only one to do it right so far; none of this feels like a calculated career move, simply by virtue of bringing a built-in aptitude that hasn’t been seen anywhere else. It’s all brought together by KennyHoopla as a frontman, with a yelping, outsized voice that isn’t tight or refined whatsoever (particularly when he tries to scream), but it’s a wealth of personality regardless, where he’ll throw himself into the scenes rather than playing an observer who has a general idea of how these things should work. It’s true that a lot of SURVIVORS GUILT…’s appeal does come from how effortlessly it trounces the other pop-punk rappers in its lane, but even removed from that and taken as its own entity, this is great, enjoyable stuff from a true find within this scene. The benefit of the Travis Barker co-sign has been readily documented and this will likely be no different, but what’s key is that it isn’t a crutch this time. KennyHoopla has vastly more skill and personality, to where it’s less a case of being shepherded into quality, and more being given a healthy bump up into a spotlight that he truly deserves to be in.
For fans of: blink-182, New Found Glory, Machine Gun Kelly
‘SURVIVORS GUILT: THE MIXTAPE//’ by KennyHoopla & Travis Barker is out now on Mogul Vision Music / Arista Records.
It says a lot that K.Flay doesn’t really seem to be advancing up the musical ladder, rather just making lateral moves that tend to peter out with whatever she does. The same can be said for virtually any of her alt-pop-rap compatriots whose buzz has all but evaporated nowadays, but even then, it doesn’t even feel as though the same doors were open for K.Flay. She’s always been more of a fixture of the scene than a key player, even with an inexplicable pulling power that’s brought in Tom Morello and Travis Barker for this EP, but the fact that this is just an EP feels indicative of a star that’s fading away. After all, it’s the usual case with artists like this of not having sufficient enough ideas to fill an entire album, and while it’s commendable that K.Flay has acknowledged those limitations, it doesn’t make this any better. Lyrically it’s pretty boilerplate stuff, especially for how such destructive thoughts are framed as not wanted to be nice for a change, or breaking out against a system of work. It’s all very tame and not worthy of the enormity that K.Flay is trying to imbue within it; it just winds up in the same camp as an artist like grandson, where the noise is intended to prop up a lacking message but fails almost unilaterally. At least K.Flay isn’t hung up on pretensions of ‘changing the world’, even if the overall dimensionality it still just as lacking.
And of course, alongside that, the sound leaves a lot to be desired too, as has always been the case with K.Flay in an area that hasn’t undergone much of a renovation. Four Letter Words definitely sets the right tone, where the progressions will constantly thud and grind with precious little tunefulness. The guitars on Dating My Dad and TGIF are coated in an oiliness that never sounds pleasant, especially when propped up next to heavy-handed percussion and production, in another example of prioritising volume over all else. Good Girl seems to get it a bit more right with a wiry surf-punk guitar line that doesn’t feel boxed in under its own tremendous mass, but it’s still loud in a way that peaks the mix, which leads its fighting against K.Flay’s own voice trying for something similar. And look, she’s not a great singer for how limiting her clipped affectation is (which isn’t a problem exclusive to her, for the record), but when that’s slapped right in front of everything else, it just highlights the cracks to a far more noticeable degree. It’s intended to sound punk for how slapdash it is, but it’s more just a case of putting together messy pieces that don’t make for a gratifying whole. That might as well be the story of K.Flay’s career up to now, but the fact she’s unable to escape it even on a fairly brief EP is probably even more damning on her behalf, and like so many others in her lane, highlights how painfully limited this sort of music is. In other words, just business as usual.
For fans of: grandson, UPSAHL, MISSIO
‘Inside Voices’ by K.Flay is out now on BMG.
Path Of Wellness
Removed from the very-last-minute departure of drummer Janet Weiss and the clunky stab at modernity of 2019’s The Center Won’t Hold is immediately beneficial for Path Of Wellness. Sleater-Kinney were so bogged down by everything that surrounded their last album that they really couldn’t make it through unscathed, and rather than actively do damage to them – they’re too long-lived and well-respected in indie-rock for that to happen – it was more a case of a band struggling to find any sort of stability for themselves. By comparison, Path Of Wellness’ instability is far more by design, in a looser, meandering way that plays more towards Sleater-Kinney’s relative veteran status. That also means it’s not quite as sharp as they’ve been in the past; the swaying bass strut of High In The Grass and the nervy slow-burn of Complex Female Characters are both good, but they’re also distinctly older and without the punk vigour that Sleater-Kinney would previously bring. That’s generally true of the whole album, where it’s certainly a more natural fit than The Center Won’t Hold was, but it’s lacking the same sort of memorability on the whole. Though, granted, that’s also a consequence of an album as well-rounded as this, where nothing stands out per se, but it also doesn’t fall behind either. Ten albums in, there’s a certain amount of reliability baked into Path Of Wellness that Sleater-Kinney abide by rather unwaveringly, where something like the lumpy progressions and occasional trail of horns on Method are unquestionably leftfield moves that aren’t indicative of the album as a whole.
Regardless, there’s comfort without complacency, and for a band of Sleater-Kinney’s ilk this deep in, it’s good to see that there’s still that degree of solidity to them. Both Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker have an older tone to their voices that’s got a good authoritative presence, and in what comes down a breakdown of the past year, where taking the path of wellness involves tackling the hardships and unrest that have plagued everyday life for basically everyone. It’s told with the art-rock slant that’s very typical of Sleater-Kinney, where the indie-rock intelligence and auteurship becomes the most pronounced. They’re the sort of characteristics that have gotten them this far, which do even more to establish Path Of Wellness as a course correction following its predecessor. It’s definitely more of the same as far as this band’s usual course goes, and that’s not precisely a bad thing. They’ve done it better, sure, and having an album like this at this career juncture naturally doesn’t leave a great deal to say, but there’s not a great deal to complain about with regards to what’s expected of them. Sleater-Kinney aren’t going to cross over and this album makes no illusion towards that, for better and for worse. It’s not a primary attention-grabber, but it hits exactly where it needs to, which, for a band like this on an album like this, is all anyone can really hope for.
For fans of: The Breeders, Screaming Females, The Thermals
‘Path Of Wellness’ by Sleater-Kinney is out now on Mom+Pop Music.
As Blue As Indigo
Tigercub are one of those mid-2010s bands who became memory-holed rather quickly due to inactivity, but unlike a lot of others in the same position, they’re one that actually deserve to be remembered again. They had a really cool sound at the time that fit with the garage-rock wave without being slavishly devoted to it, and the fact that the last thing they released was an EP in 2017 makes their return with this new full-length an even more attractive prospect. After all, there’s a lot of tight-knit creativity to bear with Tigercub, and the fact their opening title track reintroduces them with a cavernous Muse riff smashing through a delicate, restrained prologue seems to indicate they’re back in business with very little rust to speak of. Perhaps that’s not entirely true when the consecutive lulls of Funeral and Built To Fail can make some of the album’s mid-section sag a bit, but As Blue As Indigo on the whole feels as though it hasn’t missed a beat. Its tones are still indebted to those of a few years ago, especially in the parallels to earlier Royal Blood in how the low-slung riffs split the difference between being ironclad and populist in equal measure, but that Muse-esque brand of histrionics widens things out considerably, for the titanic churn of Stop Beating On My Heart (Like A Bass Drum) and the wiry guitar that cuts through the big bass thuds of As Long As You’re Next To Me. The trade-off between sounding forceful and sweepingly all-encompassing is handled surprisingly tactfully, though for a band like Tigercub whose status as riff-smiths is highlighted as being underrated as ever here, it’s not really a surprise.
It all actually makes for an interesting melding of ideas, in how sharply these acute spikes of creativity will shred through something that isn’t as particularly strong, and pretty much divert all attention away from it. For instance, the production isn’t anything to write home about, in the buzzy, low-end style that’s synonymous with garage-rock that’s become dreadfully worn-out in recent years, but the colour and vibrancy of the playing itself surpasses any latent mediocrity by a country mile. Jamie Hall is also a great frontman for this type of music, more in terms of range than power but having a precision within that that’s far more useful in this sort of music. It helps when this album is as impressionistic by design as it is, taking a lot of cues from colour theory and the subjectivity of the human prism of vision, and feeding through that ideas of mental health and death that end up being a lot bigger and more intricate than preconceptions might’ve suggested. Again, it’s the comparisons to Muse in full swing, but Tigercub still have their grounded, homegrown sensibilities that put them more in line with that band’s earlier work. That’s meant as a massive compliment too, in what ends up being a rough-around-the-edges prospect, but one whose ideas exceed its station and are still able to be met. Great to have them back, and even greater to see them in such fine form.
For fans of: Muse, Pulled Apart By Horses, Royal Blood
‘As Blue As Indigo’ by Tigercub is released on 18th June on Blame Recordings.
…but for the moment
At first, a new EP from Superlove arriving already implies they’re subscribing to the ‘little but often’ release strategy that seems to have some burgeoning momentum within their circle of tight, genre-fluid pop-rock. Then it comes to pass that this is a self-proclaimed side-project designed to float even further outside of their already spurious genre boundaries, and that ends up making more sense. If their self-titled debut sought to establish Superlove as the band-in-reserve for Don Broco, …but for the moment looks to do everything but, in what feels like an exerciser in genre colonisation that, somewhat unsurprisingly, can be difficult to get onboard with. It’s mostly a case of Superlove spreading themselves too thinly, with so little connective tissue between each track to where its existence as a disjointed collection of experiments might be telegraphed but doesn’t land on its feet particularly often. btw! i adore u feels probably the closest to ‘normal’ in its guitar crunch and alt-rock setup, but taking it further with aggro post-hardcore over a snarling bass snap on Not Me! Not You! even falls out of that range, as do dalliances with hyperpop on 8am (The Start) and a remix of previous song Untouchable. It gives the impression of a band that try to disavow their own comfort zone despite finding the most to work with within it; even on The People You’ll Love Forever with a melody accentuated by its big, wheezing synths, there’s at least the pop-rock foundation upon which it builds.
To be fair though, the fact that the band have acknowledged this is a placeholder project is probably the best thing they could’ve done. Elements from it may weave their way into future releases, but on the whole, having this as an opportunity to really pry open their boundaries in a controlled way isn’t a bad thing. If anything, Superlove will lean into the comparatively throwaway nature of it all, with writing that doesn’t have a great deal of depth to not distract from just how widespread and scattered their creative decisions are. It’s more like a mixtape in that regard, where, even if not everything fits together, doing that isn’t really the point, and giving airtime for more unorthodox endeavours will ultimately take precedence. That’s why, for as little about …but for the moment works, it’s hard to chastise it too harshly. It’s still not what Superlove have proven to be best at in their catalogue – and accentuating that with enormous production all the way through makes for an unfortunate highlighting tool – but it’s good to see them trying all the same, and at least there’s a handful of ideas here that could have promise. Incorporating some of this into their main work without losing their primary focus wouldn’t be too objectionable, so while it’s not too good on its own, it has a right to exist.
For fans of: Don Broco, Headache, Holygood
‘…but for the moment’ by Superlove is released on 18th June on Rude Records.
It’s equally telling and alarming that Mammoth WVH’s big breakthrough moment was with Distance, a song in which Wolfgang Van Halen paid tribute to his father Eddie Van Halen’s passing, with a combination of virality, unashamed nepotism and pinpoint timing for this debut album to pick up far more legs than it might’ve otherwise. How else would you explain how the album cover is identical to Violent Eve’s 2016 release A Great Day, other than Mammoth WVH have more of a profile behind them and the backing of such an enormous artistic legacy to get away with it? The album itself falls into a similar spot, in that the weight of a musical dynasty as ironclad as Van Halen’s means that this can be as flabby and over-ambitious as it wants to, though without being immune to how that can fall flat. It’s not the sort of hard rock designed to be stretched over an hour, particularly in its starkest setting of a driving, high-octane variety that simply doesn’t have the flexibility to work to such a huge degree. As such, there’s a lot of filler that can be isolated here, more for how it struggles to grip over anything else. It certainly doesn’t apply to Van Halen as a musician, who played everything on this album himself and, in terms of holding down the enormous stadium-rock angle, rarely puts a foot wrong. Musically, it’s all as watertight as it gets, in a guitar / bass / drums setup that’s well balanced and held together, and production that tends to stay organic without eschewing a customary layer of polish. It’s the expected outcome overall, only taking diversions for forays into tense, acoustic-driven grunge on Resolve or brighter power-pop on Think It Over. They stand out rather jaggedly, but it’s ultimately what gives them the most character on an album that doesn’t allow that too much.
It’s honestly the size of the album that makes it more noticeable; pruned down to ten tracks from its existing fourteen, and it would definitely feel more manageable, such is the extent that Van Halen can deliver solid hard rock when viewed through the prism of his own abilities. Vocally, he’s got the sort of towering range that leans heavy on emotionality, which isn’t something this scene really prides itself on. The lyrics themselves aren’t necessarily stellar or innovative, but they’re elevated by a powerful performance to where the fact that there isn’t anything truly awful is enough to keep everything steady. It definitely helps that, in the combination of Van Halen’s voice and the shadow of losing his father still looming large, it gives a song like Circles more of a distinction from just a standard loss song, to where it’s still broad but slots into place with a serendipitous ease to work more effectively. They’re occasional moments but they add up, to where the general assessment of this album falls more positively on the whole, despite its shortcomings. Even if it’s not one that’s clamouring for respins, as a way of establishing a new talent beyond the usual nepotistic means, it’s worthwhile, if in need of refinement. When that ultimately comes, the Van Halen legacy will be in safe hands.
For fans of: Foo Fighters, Alter Bridge, Shinedown
‘Mammoth WVH’ by Mammoth WVH is out now on EX1 Records.
There’s something to be said for new metalcore that actually works, where among the seas of clones and the abject boredom they produce, it’s able to pierce through and actually stick. That’s the impression that Another Now give, the sort of band that mightn’t come across as too different on principle, but make the most of what they have for an incredibly solid debut in Omni. They’re more on the crunchy, digitalised side of metalcore that’s yet to fully cross over into tech-metal, more in the vein of Crossfaith or Crystal Lake in how the whirring synths of Parallax and Progam give that hyper-modern edge that forms most of their appeal, or how they’re liable to even wedge in drum ‘n’ bass progressions for the more melodic Vapors. Predictably it’s a very dense soundscape that Another Now create, where the production might lack some modulation or low-end foundation in spots (quite a lot of spots actually…), but the crispness of the sound itself wins out in the end. This is the sort of album that benefits from being sharp and polished, in how that facilitates the futuristic vibe that Another Now create without being watered down or toothless. More often than not, this is still a heavy album in the most contemporary sense, something which Another Now are extremely adept at managing at almost every turn.
It’s mostly in the details that lead Omni to be as strong as it is; it’s really nothing new, but the degree to which it elevates above the metalcore chaff is noteworthy in itself. For one, Stef Rikken is a genuinely formidable screamer, to the point of overshadowing Rik Bosmans’ cleans on a number of occasions without fully overpowering him. It proves another area where Omni is allowed to be more intense and not hold itself back, and it’s a fitting parallel for a more open and articulate discussion of mental health subject matter that’s become so trite and formulaic in this genre. With Another Now, it thankfully moves past the buzzwords and empty sloganeering, actually anchoring it to some depth where an autistic protagonist tries to parse through their own feelings of confusion and exclusion in a world not suited to them. A detail like that is exponentially more preferable to another hollow screed of ‘you’re not alone’, and combined with a sound that, for the most part, does feel like their own, it indicates a longevity that few in this lane can boast so early on. Maybe that’s wishful thinking with how rapidly metalcore will cycle through its flavours of the month, but having Another Now stick around would be a net positive overall. There’s a bit more distinction to them that works in their favour tremendously, and Omni, as a collection of ideas and concepts that are already surprisingly fully formed, would have you hope there’s even more to come down the line.
For fans of: Crystal Lake, Northlane, Crossfaith
‘Omni’ by Another Now is out now.
The burnout around post-punk has really begun to set in now, and not just isolated to the crossover brand of it. The continued rise of new, identikit bands has certainly proliferated it, but it’s spilled over into all forms of the genre to be perfectly honest, where what was once a cool, interesting offshoot to delve into can now just feel like a chore. It’s unfortunate that a band like Whispering Sons end up falling under that banner given that they are doing their own thing, but it’s a sign of genre fatigue that’s unavoidable for the most part. That said, it’s still very possible to acknowledge that Whispering Sons fall farther away from where the greatest concentration lies, and that does assist them in the long run. They’ve got more in common with no-wave or noise-rock overall in how the choppy basslines are a lot more relentless in how they power through, bolstered by off-kilter synths and guitars that make a song like Flood feel more nervy and unstable. That comes even further in Fenne Kuppens’ vocal style, where her low, quaking register exudes a sense of simultaneous vulnerability and bubbling-over intensity, and when it clicks most emphatically on a song like Screens, surrounded by solemn pianos and cavernous, metallic percussion, it shows how far Whispering Sons’ willingness to step outside the norm goes.
Admittedly, it means that Several Others is less susceptible to true burnout than others, but that’s not to say it clicks all the time. Outside of the fact that bands like The Murder Capital occupy a similar ‘anti-crossover’ space that isn’t being revolutionised here either, it’s not a propulsive listen, where a lot of the taut, aching tones are more suited to reverberating through the background on the whole. Kuppens’ voice aside, Whispering Sons don’t have that singular element that makes them stand out above others, and though their eschewing of hooks feels deliberate, you do see the impact that has when the album will more or less just drift by. It does make sense in the vein of almost a stream of consciousness of Kuppens’ part, around her own feelings of identity and animosity towards herself that will systematically strip down her own walls of artifice. It packs that intensity and feels right in doing so, but it would be even better if Whispering Sons could leave their work feeling a bit more involved. This is still good, but the revolutionary stroke for post-punk it isn’t, and at a time when that’s so desperately needed, it’s a criticism that feels warranted when the ambition is so clearly in view.
For fans of: The Murder Capital, Heavy Lungs, Low
‘Several Others’ by Whispering Sons is released on 18th June on [PIAS].
Words by Luke Nuttall