REVIEW ROUND-UP: Poppy, Sleep Token, Badflower, Dying Wish

Poppy

Flux

The lack of anticipation around this album has been so unbelievably telling in the lead-up to it. Okay, there hasn’t been none whatsoever, but considering how Poppy was touted as the face of genre-pushing movements in rock just last year, Flux seems to be arriving in a rather flaccid fashion. It’s not like it’s totally out of the blue though; for what I Disagree attempted in seeing Poppy’s online pop fully graduate into nu-metal, it felt incredibly superficial and really didn’t stick through all the hype. And while there’s definitely credit to be given for keeping the material coming since with plenty of EPs between then and now, Poppy just isn’t the draw she once was, even on paper. She’s already been outgrown by the hyperpop she’s a clear ancestor of, for one, and now toning down the gimmickry that felt imperative to her brand on Flux only doubles down on the notion of an artist who really only had a predetermined window of opportunity that’s well and truly passed. That also comes as a means of asserting her own creative control of the music she makes following her split from Titanic Sinclair, but there’s also not as much personality behind it, or as much that truly defines Poppy as her own artist as was previously the case. The palette of rock she’s drawing from this time is far less workable, in more straightforward grunge and ‘90s alt-rock that can have a bit of rollick on a track like So Mean, but otherwise feels bereft of real personality or the distinction that was so integral to Poppy previously. For an artist once reliant on a doe-eyed, unwired presence to sharpen out her nu-metal edges, Flux has no real room to pull off that sort of engagement, and ultimately plods along as merely another ‘90s throwback as a result. In that sense, it sounds fine enough in terms of production, and having a dip into drum machine-aided post-punk on Hysteria is welcome, but it’s also the sort of thing that fades remarkably quickly unless it has a deeper anchoring presence, and that’s noticeably absent across Flux. Nothing here catches the attention even close to as much, presumably as a means to step into artistic ‘maturity’ that comes at the expense of character.

But even that’s not really the case though, given that Poppy doesn’t undergo the same personal progression as she clearly wants her music to have. Even just aesthetically, she seems a shadow of her former self in terms of how distinctive she is, largely lodged in a sweeter, lower-down register that might want to emulate the indie-rock or shoegaze-trending ends of the ‘90s, but suffers when compared to how intriguing and enigmatic she was before. The occasional builds into screams don’t even facilitate a return to that; the dichotomy that was once her greatest selling point has been closed immeasurably, and it betrays how limited her artistic vision really is outside of it. She might try and extol the virtues of creative fluidity and freedom on the opening title track, but on the whole, Flux is very on-brand thematically for Poppy, in sifting through angst and identity in a way that hasn’t really evolved or progressed from previous efforts. It makes for an album that feels as though it’s ultimately taking elements away without replacing them in a satisfying or substantive manner, and for an album as short as this is and after such a speedy turnaround time, it just doesn’t do as much on the whole. It’d be wrong to call it rushed, but even in terms of hooks or punchier moments of insight, it’s severely lacking in the things that made an already limited discography at least have its high spots. And as a result, Poppy just doesn’t seem to be as compelling an artist as she might’ve once threatened to be, now caught in the doldrums of ‘90s throwbacks rather than blazing her own path, and feeling all the worse for it. Where I Disagree ended up being forgettable, it at least came with a distinct first hit; Flux doesn’t even have the courtesy of delivering that, and it’s no more interesting or memorable to make up for it.

4/10

For fans of: Hole, Wolf Alice, Sonic Youth

‘Flux’ by Poppy is out now on Sumerian Records.


Sleep Token

This Place Will Become Your Tomb

It can be difficult to qualify where so much of the allure around Sleep Token comes from. Sure, there’s intrinsic appeal in diving into an act as deliberately shrouded in mystique as they are—especially when it’s not held as a gimmick—but the balance of substance still needs to be there. Up to now, Sleep Token have flirted with keeping that stable, but rarely enough to excel in the way that so many have projected for them. Maybe it’s the sound that doesn’t really lend itself to that approach, where the blend of swooning, cushioned alt-pop with occasional glimpses of Bring Me The Horizon-esque pop-metal feels very contemporary, and uses that to mask some clearer flaws in pace and momentum. That can all foster a certain degree of uncertainty on a sophomore album pushing an hour in length, which Sleep Token find themselves unable to really navigate amongst, and still haven’t grown into what they’re doing all that much. A lot of that stems from how This Place Will Become Your Tomb has an abundance of ideas chiefly among everything else, to where actually realising them proves a lot more difficult with what they’ve got at their disposal. Again, the overall pace of the album is its biggest issue, as Sleep Token will luxuriate in their huge soundscapes, where the primary source of form comes in the prominent guitars on Hypnosis or Alkaline, but crucially, not everywhere. The album can really drift along as a result, in possession of some truly excellent production and fidelity, but not the musical force to drive it along. Especially in the back half, there’s a listlessness that serves as its most prominent feature, remedied most by the booming mix and heavier percussion, but not to the extent where it’s more ear-catching. It feels more like a different flavour of alt-pop that’s trending towards metal appeal overall; it’s got the same gloss and finish but the shades of that bit darker, though not enough to feel as earth-shakingly forward-thinking as it might otherwise be billed.

That’s not to say there’s nothing good to be found here, even outside the general quality of sound which is undoubtedly the album’s best characteristic. The less structured quality gives room for a free-flowing emotionality to come through from their vocalist dubbed Vessel, who can turn a standard love song selection into something a bit more visceral overall. Not totally, but on tracks like Mine and Alkaline, the timbre and overall uniqueness of their voice peels back what could be some otherwise regimented sentiments and ideas, and lets the darker pulse that underscores Sleep Token’s work flow freely. At the same time, the vocal sound and technique can be a rather acquired taste for how warbling and throaty it can be (and with a register that’s not too far from some of indie’s wetter frontmen), but it’s certainly distinct, and having it as the element that Sleep Token’s work is built around most is probably for the best. For the sound they’re trying so hard to compound, having that beacon of personality at its centre is easily the most beneficial thing for them to do. It’s the right idea for Sleep Token to cut as deep a niche in alternative music as they already have done, and that might be where so much of widespread appeal originates from. They aren’t a bad act but they’re also not at the level of star power that so many impose upon them, and being as completely unlike anything else is the greatest platform for them to have at this point. And yes, that’s ignoring how the music itself really should try and pick up the portentous weight it clearly wants to have, but even now, Sleep Token add a new flavour to modern rock that’s all their own, and they do deserve credit for that. Hopefully soon, they’ll actually show some more physical evidence of earning that high spot.

6/10

For fans of: Bring Me The Horizon, Black Peaks, Linkin Park

‘This Place Will Become Your Tomb’ by Sleep Token is out now on Spinefarm Records.


Badflower

This Is How The World Ends

Off the back of their debut, it’s kind of surprising that Badflower didn’t get more pushback. After all, that album was practically adorned with a fashionable edginess and try-hard attitude that most rock fans—especially in the hard rock zones in which Badflower looked to ingratiate themselves—rarely hesitate to pounce on. But instead, the album turned out to be rather good for what it was, even going so far as to fuel a real sea change in that branch of radio-rock, for a more alternative-leaning brand of hard rock to develop. With that in mind, it does say a lot that few have surpassed Badflower’s efforts for as obviously flawed as they are, and that This Is How The World Ends seems rather unashamed at the extent to which it’s leaning into the exact same successful mould as its predecessor. As a result, it’s basically more of the same, where Badflower take their serrated look at the world around them with wide-firing angst that’s definitely hit or miss, but probably hits more overall. They do try and sell more emotionality or vitriol on Adolescent Love and Johnny Wants To Fight than they’re worth, and a frontman like Josh Katz will often conflate vulnerability with a simpering, quivering whisper that really outlines the lack of subtlety that can afflict this band. Making statements often comes with the caveat that there mightn’t be a lot behind them to dig into, but curiously, that doesn’t limit Badflower as much as it might seem. It really picks up mileage when they lean into their snarkier, snider side, taking shots at opportunistic starfuckers on Fukboi or incels lost in their own damaging worldview on Stalker, with an approach cuts through without hassle rather than providing much engagement, but really working in that regard. It’s not as if they aren’t capable of thoughtfulness either, as She Knows and Machine Gun show; overall, their skillset is admittedly inconsistent in terms of what it’s going for, but when it hits, it’s hard not to pay attention.

Furthermore, Badflower have a no-frills approach to their sound that’s probably the wisest move for what they’re going for. It places more focus on the writing which is definitely their intention, and there’s no real clutter to cut through in getting to it. For an album bordering on 50 minutes, there are very few outright fallow patches, as Badflower keep the momentum steady throughout while knowing where to peak and trough effectively. It sounds basic but a lot of bands just can’t grasp it, and the fact that This Is How The World Ends is as well-sequenced as it is is probably where a lot of the good will towards it comes from. It’s not like Badflower are enormously technical in their playing, or have the richest or strongest production, but they’re clearly wringing out as much as they can from what they do have to stand out in that regard. And besides, it’s not like they sound bad either, where the shades of My Chemical Romance that have regularly coloured their work return for slow-burns like Family and She Knows, and knowledge of how to use the fuzzed-out riff-rock palette sparingly and effectively does a lot to elevate Sasshole above similar examples from other bands. Comparing Badflower to others in the corner of hard rock really only shines an even more favourable light on them, in revealing a band with a more deft creative ear, and the means of assembling it to work effectively. It’s to a point where some of the smoothed-over production doesn’t really bother as much, even compared to their debut; it’s a sound that Badflower have leaned into and extrapolated well, and they get another solid body of work from it. It should be said that this still isn’t the moment where they fully explode and barrel into greatness—it’s more of a lateral move overall, if that—but This Is How The World Ends still has that freshness and evident quality that made their debut such a strong listen in 2019. Hard rock’s usual yoke of ‘more of the same’ doesn’t really apply when there’s more there to begin with.

7/10

For fans of: Yonaka, cleopatrick, Cemetery Sun

‘This Is How The World Ends’ by Badflower is out now on Big Machine Records / John Varvatos Records.


Dying Wish

Fragments Of A Bitter Memory

The ongoing 2000s revival within rock has been hard to miss, for better and for worse. Obviously there’s been the resurgence of pop-punk which, the less about that, the better, but the return of screamo and metalcore with such clear ties to that era has been far more compelling and with a lot more to get excited by. And though they aren’t entirely congruent with that era, Dying Wish are yet another band who are moving hardcore and metalcore forward by drawing from its past, a practice that never seems to get any less thrilling no matter how many times it’s ran through. Case in point—Fragments Of A Bitter Memory, a highly anticipated debut album without a hint of wetness behind the ears throughout, and where Dying Wish already feel completely at home among such distinct company. Of course, that could be down to the same raw, rampant attitude being at play here, particularly in the writing that doesn’t shy away from cutting commentary interspersed with an almost feral sense of violence that always stays thrilling. Similarly, there’s an earnestness and honesty that surges through just as heavily, held firm on the likes of the title track, and by the ferocity in Emma Boster’s vocals. Hers is exactly the sort of razor-wire presence that gives albums like this such an edge, akin to plenty of metallic hardcore’s greats and fed through an old-school metalcore lens that clicks so profoundly well. As a frontperson and vehicle for such bloodletting, there’s barely a foot put wrong throughout or a shot taken that doesn’t absolutely decimate on impact.

As for the sound, it’s about as standardly great as this sort of hardcore usually is, maybe affording of a bit more uniqueness but never to anything close to a detrimental degree. In fact, Dying Wish pretty much nail exactly what this sound demands; as a body of work, Fragments… is remarkably tight and lean, while still managing to pack in real force and heft that still bears its own sharpened edges. They’ve got the feel of that bruising brand of hardcore that’s distinct for how meaty it is, while also bringing in a refinement and ever-so-slight dusting of chaos that really makes the difference in how it’s perceived overall. There’s definitely a 2000s approach to the sound, particularly in the production in the darker, more sonorous tones that sometimes come out, occasionally reminiscent of that era of emo in the best possible way. It makes the vibes of early Killswitch Engage or Converge feel a lot more tightly packed, and in a guitar, bass and drum assault that is hard-hitting but can bring nuance and melody when it’s needed, that’s incredibly useful to have. Above all else, Dying Wish just have such a complete approach to making music already, dodging any of the pitfalls of a newer band and nailing themselves down as real scene superstars nice and early. In a year where that’s been the case for a lot of bands, especially in heavier music, having another to add to that list is hardly a bad thing, and Dying Wish only stand out more within the wider landscape for it.

8/10

For fans of: Kublai Khan, Chamber, SeeYouSpaceCowboy

‘Fragments Of A Bitter Memory’ by Dying Wish is released on 1st October on Sharptone Records.


Wage War

Manic

It’s about right that Wage War really haven’t made the waves in metalcore that might’ve once been predicted of them. After all, very few ever do, and getting there with an increasingly dull skillset without much individuality isn’t going to get them there. Where Deadweight showed promise as an entry in the then-burgeoning nu-metalcore wave, its follow-up Pressure took a huge step back to go through the motions, and thus here Wage War are, floating around the doldrums of modern metalcore and pushing forward with a sound that just feels so out of place now. People don’t want material that feels this cookie-cutter anymore, a lesson that clearly hasn’t sunk in on Manic, even despite the most fractional piece of damage control. To be totally fair, Wage War aren’t the worst or most cynically motivated of their ilk, and they’ll occasionally pull out a good sweeping hook or a potent guttural on this album that—at least with the benefit of lowered expectations and standard—isn’t too bad overall. Compared to a band like I Prevail, the fact they bring some tangible weight to High Horse and Death Roll immediately puts them on stronger footing, even if what they do with it doesn’t show much imagination outside of the usual chugga-chugga fare. Even with solid vocal performance from both Briton Bond and Cody Quistad to buoy them up, Wage War just have so little in the way of interesting presence anymore, fenced in by a mid-2010s metalcore formula that’s not doing them any favours and feeling extremely blasé at the end of it all. It’ll have heavier moments that might glance back at their nu-metal days, but rarely does that culminate in much besides the acknowledgment of it being in the mix still.

It’s not even like Wage War are a million miles away from getting to something workable either, or at the very least, something that once resembled their better self. But at the same time, Manic’s rigidity around the metalcore way of operation is blatant; the production is loud but with little depth and never throws a bone to some bass work that could at least foster that nu-metal energy more, and the lyrics twirl around the same pools of depression and self-flagellation that clearly aren’t getting rotated out any time soon. It’s the predictability that’s the killing blow here, as Wage War have a visceral nature to themselves, clearly, but there’s such a mandated, restricted feel here that never lets them really let loose. And thus, what’s left is an album that ticks the right boxes for what its scene demands of it, and pays no mind to doing much more than that when it could really afford to. Despite being better than some of their peers who are also yet to do anything of note, Wage War still give off the intrusive air of a placeholder band, ready to serve as an easy hired gun on a metalcore lineup without the motivation the get to the top of the bill themselves. Even as an improvement, this is a perennially B-tier album if there ever was one, lacking in flair or colour, and finding out the hard way that some heavier guitars won’t get all the way to success on their own. The chances are this is going to be forgotten in record time, and that just seems entirely fitting.

5/10

For fans of: I Prevail, Like Moths To Flames, Polaris

‘Manic’ by Wage War is released on 1st October on Fearless Records.


Tremonti

Marching In Time

Oh look, a new Tremonti album! The review can pretty much be left there given that, just like his main band Alter Bridge, Mark Tremonti’s eponymous project has developed a bit of a habitual streak when it comes to their own music. It’ll be a bit heavier than Alter Bridge with the occasional more progressive leaning that’ll lead to a typically long listen, but the hard rock / heavy metal framework will never change, nor will any insinuations be made of the sort. Marching In Time seems an apt title then, as Tremonti plough on forward with another album of the usual, albeit a pretty decent example of it. There’s definitely a skew towards anthemic arena-rock on Let That Be Us and Not Afraid To Lose, in a more bombastic sound than Tremonti tends to lean on with this project. Honestly it’s easy to see a few notes cribbed from the Alter Bridge playbook in these examples, to bolster the usual fare presented on Now And Forever, Bleak and the myriad other recreations of the general Tremonti formula. It’s not bad as much as predictable; for a guitarist as talented as he is, not much of this feels out of Tremonti’s wheelhouse from any perspective, and now in the fifth album of this sort of thing, it’s hard to imagine anyone being courted outside of the diehards. As such, the vibe isn’t one of effortlessness but more deliberate sameness, especially in the writing which is probably the least important factor anyway, but also how the whole album just isn’t as thrilling as it might’ve been the first time around.

Even so, regardless of that sameness, there’s a benchmark of quality that Tremonti will always adhere to without fail, and Marching In Time is no exception. The quality feels more technical on the whole, anchored in Tremonti’s own guitar wizardry, but continuing the band’s trend of not feeling like a vanity project at the same time. There’s a solid rhythm section in Tanner Keegan and Ryan Bennett on bass and drums respectively, who’ll shine most on a song like The Last One Of Us that gets relatively more stripped-down and solemn. As a collective, it’s clear that Tremonti have plenty of experience at this stage and the ease with which they can peel out this material can impress when it wants to. That doesn’t necessarily equate to huge standouts—again, it’s the usual fare from a Tremonti album, more than anything—but there’s seldom an awful moment to stymie an album that clearly knows what it wants to be and runs with it. It’s all very expected but not in a truly demotivating way; there are maybe hints of that in the familiarity of it all, but the higher floor of this band does need to be taken into account. They stand a lot like the other side of the coin to Alter Bridge in that respect, keeping radio-rock-esque company and not being too far away from that themselves, but having considerably more about them to stay more interesting. That probably only applies to a certain extent, but it’s still there, and that’s worth noting.

6/10

For fans of: Alter Bridge, Sevendust, Black Stone Cherry

‘Marching In Time’ by Tremonti is out now on Napalm Records.


They Fell From The Sky

Decade

This is one of those bands that’ll probably get a very certain group of listeners excited, even if that probably won’t translate elsewhere. They Fell From The Sky have actually been around since 2008 as a collaborative project between Colin Doran of Hundred Reasons and Jason Bowld of Pitchshifter and Bullet For My Valentine, almost as a remaining thread of that earlier era of Britrock and post-hardcore that continues to have huge appeal nearly two decades later. It’s also rather fitting that they formed only a year after Hundred Reasons’ last album, given that this debut is basically a continuation of that band’s exact creative M.O. in all but a name, and it still holds up. That’s hardly a surprise, but Decade still has a freshness to it in how hefty the riffs are while still landing on huge rock choruses on Can’t Think Of Anything or Mantrap. The no-frills approach similarly carries over, where the whole thing is reliant on squeezing out as much power as possible from the tradition rock band setup, while Doran’s rough-hewn vocals serve as another source of driving force. Vocal inconsistency will crop up sometimes, such as how The Line places them a bit too deeply in the mix than would be preferable, but the album is still free of outright weak moments, much to its credit.

At the same time though, it’s easy to see how They Fell From The Sky’s straightforwardness could fly under the radar in the modern alt-rock climate. On top of the lowered expectations of being a purely studio-based project, the spark they have really only applies for fans of that earlier breed of Britrock; there’s not a particular musical or lyrical turn that’s advancing on that, and so the limitations do seem rather apparent. It’s easy to look past them when the music is this strong though, and when the authenticity that courses through this sound is so full-throated. For obvious reasons, it’s the closest to new Hundred Reasons music we’ve gotten since the genuine article, and that’s undoubtedly a good thing. Regardless of how little newness there is here, the strength of what’s on offer really does speak for itself, especially at a time when Britrock has the leg room to go a bit further and get a bit heavier. This isn’t to the level of the best of that wave—the fact this feels as blatant as a throwback project as it does pretty much negates that possibility from the off—but there’s really no reason to write it off when Decade delivers straightforward alt-rock this effectively. The niche appeal aside, it’s hard to want more from a project of this nature.

7/10

For fans of: Hundred Reasons, Hell Is For Heroes, Reuben

‘Decade’ by They Fell From The Sky is released on 1st October on Say Something Records.


Frauds

Long Spoons

Within post-punk, it almost feels as though Frauds have had a wave built around them rather than the other way around. Spiky post-punk reliant on sardonic humour and wit has been almost the default for the genre lately, which is what Frauds have been up to for a good long while now. That’s not to call them trendsetters by any means, particularly in a sound that seems to be constantly reshaping itself around that ethos, but it’s also noteworthy to see the bigger purveyors of that sound like Idles and Fontaines D.C. lap them so clearly, especially on this new album. Maybe it’s the ever-threatening potential of burnout that’s loomed over this sound for almost a year, but Long Spoons doesn’t seem to stick as much as it could, despite having all the right elements to. Frauds remain really incisive writers, with the likes of Copenhagen or Woke Life having the right combination of sneering social commentary with laconic humour condensed into slogans and one-liners volleyed out at the right pace. It’s the standard of modern post-punk that Frauds are perfectly equipped for, and vocalist Chris has the barbed delivery that’s ultimately become a necessary feature to have. In terms of where they sit within the genre’s space, the Idles-esque writing style can be picked up on, but it’s not as hollow as their latest work can be; Frauds have a bite and grind that holds more weight overall.

But that really does only take them so far, particularly when Long Spoons clearly knows what it wants to say, but struggles to craft an effective way in which to say it. That’s not to say it sounds bad—indeed, the fractured spikes of guitars and general air of instability can be gripping in the right places—but leaning so far into it can dilute some of that ear-catching potential. Clearly Frauds aren’t a band for whom the size of their hooks is a huge worry, but replacing that mindset with deliberately jerky compositions that wear their instability and negative space so proudly doesn’t feel like a suitable replacement, as much as a ploy to double down on the underground credentials that their genre’s heaviest hitters have trended away from. And with that in mind, it says a lot that one of their more successful outings comes on Ships, where the meatier, clearly telegraphed guitar groove fastens effectively the same arrangement style more tightly together. It’s arguably a less unique sound overall, but it’s one that’s more enjoyable here, and serves as a memorable late-album moment when those can feel a bit dry overall. Even then, Frauds are definitely going to have an audience, in the realms of trying to break out of post-punk’s self-imposed rut, Long Spoons doesn’t hit as strongly as, say, Black Country, New Road, or even the last Fontaines D.C. album. It’s more just a solid effort at trying something, and that’s about it.

6/10

For fans of: Cassels, Heavy Lungs, USA Nails

‘Long Spoons’ by Frauds is released on 1st October on Alcopop! Records.


Cherym

Hey Tori

Right off the bat, the biggest compliment that can be offered to Cherym is that the cross-section of sounds that inhabit has been masterfully pulled off. They’ve avoided both the overcrowding of indie-punk and the overshadowing commercialisation of pop-punk for something much better on both fronts, occupying similar spaces to bands like PUP in a frayed, unashamedly DIY style of punk. On top of that, the ‘get in, get out’ style they employ on this EP only serves them even better; all five tracks here have the snappiness and fizz that music like this thrives on. Even if they do show their hand a bit early with Listening To My Head—an opening track with such a high concentration of excellence that it’s hard to suitably follow up—Cherym really do nail the sound they’re going for throughout. The guitars and bass are simultaneously fierce and buoyant in how the brightness cascades through We’re Just Friends and She’s A Lot Going On, though still with a slightly gritty garage-rock feel and production style. Sonically, Cherym do slot more in the indie-punk camp on that basis, but there’s a lot less of played-out quirkiness that’s really ran its course in the scene now. This is much more raw and roughened, without sacrificing a pop quality or an exceptionally even hand when it comes to hooks right across the board.

It’s a way of having the exuberance of pop-punk while retaining a homegrown feel, and it’s something that Cherym pull off consistently well here. There’s definitely more character in the writing to achieve a similar result too, in Hannah Richardson’s perspective on relationships coloured by her own thoughts and resignations that lend so much personality; even just in a line like “It’s your choice / But it’s not often I like boys”, there’s a deftness in songwriting that has emotional power but still feels elevated in the overall tone. That’s another clear takeaway from the indie-punk side of the family, to make it even clearer that Cherym are choosing the best qualities from each touchstone to make themselves better. It unquestionably works here, where the blend feels natural and there’s enough within the overlap to make for a fairly comprehensive sound. The individual components and flavours can still be identified, but Cherym find a workable basis with what they have, and turn out something with the potential to be truly great before long. They aren’t quite there yet, for the simple fact that they need a bit more evidence for what they can do and maybe how they can step out of their comfort zone, but there’s nothing wrong with getting some ideas down as they have done here, especially when it’s done this well. Definitely don’t sleep on Cherym; particularly within the DIY scene, there could be big things coming here.

7/10

For fans of: PUP, Happy Accidents, cheerbleederz

‘Hey Tori’ by Cherym is released on 1st October on Alcopop! Records.


Goodbye Honolulu

Goodbye Honolulu

To an extent, Goodbye Honolulu feel as though they’ve been set up for a fall. They’re touted as a wild, genre-mashing outfit that pick and choose from about half-a-dozen completely disparate styles, only to end up back at garage-rock where intended pulls from country and hip-hop especially are nowhere to be found. That might be for the best though; Over And Over already feels out of place as a straight-up disco track, and it’s not as if Goodbye Honolulu are at the least gratifying end of that sound either. There’s a sharpness to their sound informed by classic power-pop and new wave, in laser-focused guitars and rippling bass that work with the coats of fuzz rather than becoming smothered by them. Especially on a song like Dye My Hair, where the T. Rex-esque riff is effectively all fuzz, that’s noteworthy when such an approach can easily feel like compositional strength is being placed on the back foot. That’s not the case here though, with the likes of Leave Your Love Behind and How Are You Doing having a pop readiness that’s very classic in its approach, something that shows up across most of the album. It’s impressive how swiftly Goodbye Honolulu have managed to avoid so many obvious genre traps, simply through just expanding their creative reach a bit more.

It’s honestly reminiscent of the sorts of decisions that the Black Lips make a lot of the time, rooted in a garbled form of garage-rock and indie-punk without forgoing the core of appeal that’s so crucial for it to work. In Goodbye Honolulu’s case, that comes from straightforward likability, both in adjacent styles and a pared-back lyrical style that works wonders for what they’re trying to do. Maybe ‘lean’ is the wrong word, but there’s very little wasted energy on this album, at least until the closer Make You Mine which runs longer than it needs to and just feels like a general dud to close out on. Goodbye Honolulu are at their best when they’re taut and energetic, something which the vast majority of the album conveys wonderfully, and so opting for more languidity or something akin to the ‘normal’ garage-rock blasé-ness on Ultraviolet Stone isn’t the way to get by. Thankfully those moments are in a clear minority, and Goodbye Honolulu will regularly hit their stride in likable fashion here. Even for garage-rock where all the tricks have practically been done already, they don’t feel bound by how stale and stagnant that sound can be, instead embracing a lithe kinetic energy that hits surprisingly often. Definitely worth a look for something fresher than the expected norm.

7/10

For fans of: Black Lips, Viagra Boys, HMLTD

‘Goodbye Honolulu’ by Goodbye Honolulu is released on 1st October on Stray Dog Records.


Cherie Amour

Internal Discussions

Unfortunately Cherie Amour don’t sound like the Stevie Wonder song of the same name, though you can’t really rule that out being an influence somewhere down the line. That’s because this is another band who see genre discrepancy as more of an opportunity than an obstacle, in a blend of pop-punk, nu-metal, hip-hop and R&B that, somewhat surprisingly, tips its hat to all rather comprehensively. Granted, that’s still in regards to the individual pieces rather than any smoother blend; the inherent clumsiness that the term ‘rap-rock’ might invoke isn’t too far off, even if Cherie Amour are by no means the worst example of it. Burn and A Beautiful Disaster are probably the standard-setters here, where the burbling R&B production makes way the for low-end crunch and clean choruses in a similar way to Issues and their approach to genre pile-up. On the whole though, Internal Discussions feels like a case of proficiency not wholly conflating with constructional acumen, and that leads to the lumpier transitions between sparer hip-hop and nu-metal on Imposter, or what can feel like a struggle to cram everything in on Orlando when the hook feels so truncated. It’s hard to fault the idea though, and how willing Cherie Amour are to dive into it; the creative impulses they have really are noteworthy, and for what they’re drawing from as a new band, getting something even halfway cogent is still good.

That being said, the fingerprints of a younger band in need of more experience are all over this EP, to where viewing it as a taster to test the waters feels like the best option to take. In terms of writing, the clapping back in the aftermath of a toxic relationship is an okay way to go—even if it can run the risk of imposing on Issues’ work in that vein that’s a lot better—and while Trey Miller a strong all-rounder in rapping and singing in both the R&B and rock lanes, he’s not exactly leaping off the page here. It’s worth giving Cherie Amour the benefit of the doubt as a new band who still need to solidify themselves (and the fact they’re already doing a lot more than most is worthy of a bit more leeway), but it does still need to be brought up in what could otherwise be a cool musical pivot when everything falls into place. The shortcomings may be noticeable, but even at this stage, Cherie Amour are fulfilling the sum of their parts rather well, and the sheer amount of ideas bodes well for what could come in future. Especially for where pop-punk and hip-hop are within the alternative space right now, a bit more refinement could put some attention on Cherie Amour as a solid crossover prospect, and they’ve shown just enough evidence here for that to be a pretty good thing.

6/10

For fans of: Issues, Don Broco, Bring Me The Horizon

‘Internal Discussions’ by Cherie Amour is released on 1st October on Rude Records / Equal Vision Records.


Words by Luke Nuttall

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