Ah, Weatherstate—the perennial lifers of UK punk who’ve yet to truly be blessed by the same fortune as so many of their peers. In all honesty, they’re probably about due it given the time and effort they’ve put into cutting their teeth for a good few years, but they’ve also not really had their sit-up-and-take-notice moment to spark it. They’ve been consistently good in their lane, but that’s unfortunately not enough to stand against other acts who have the means of getting themselves out there more readily (regardless of whether those sources are monetary or not). In a way then, it feels a bit unfair to say that Never Better still isn’t clicking in that deeper way; Weatherstate clearly know what they’re doing and have a vision that they’re doggedly keeping up, but between similar bands doing this style and it simply not standing out quite as much, this is still squatted outside the realm of wholly connecting. It’s reliant on Weatherstate’s own merits to carry it the furthest, which haven’t exactly branched out since last time but still have decent worth. The chunkier, scruffier guitars are the easiest highlight, particularly earlier on with Hangar and Normality acting as the album’s barnstorming heading moment. It’s where there’s the cleanest melding of minds, between the rough-and-tumble pop-punk tussling with grunge and Britrock for centre stage over the course of the album, and just about squeaking a happy medium between them all. It can be a fight to get them there though, when songs like Here In My Hell are so bashed-out and unkempt in the mix that you can almost feel it straining at the foundations, to say nothing of how held back the vocals are there, and how surprisingly canned the drums can sound sometimes. There’s definitely a ‘90s flavour that coats Weatherstate’s oeuvre, one which hits its greatest stride when separated from an often cluttered production style for a keen ear for a chorus to show itself more readily on Down or Headstone.
It’s enough to formulate the map of sonic territories that Weatherstate have passed through, to where the level they average out at seems about right overall. Harry Hoskins’ vocal style rings as a mix between an old Billie Joe Armstrong sneer and a Mike Duce bellow, as a neat fit in a rougher, gruffer but acutely accessible style of punk, and even throwing in a bit of emo with the shimmer of Pity Lines. It makes for a substantive package overall; Weatherstate never feel as though they’re undercutting their own abilities or impulses despite how well-trodden this all is, and the brisk pace they keep is always a good quality to have. Furthermore, for an album so deeply lodged in feelings of being jaded and ground down by how overwhelming life can be (particularly in the last two years of pandemic uncertainty that’s shifted from a daily trudge to abject uncertainty on a sixpence), this is the obvious sound to turn to. Weatherstate have regularly had the comparisons to early Green Day thrust upon them, and that still stands here, in how the impetus of lacking motivation that drove Longview is opened out and applied to an all-too-recognisable modern context. Weatherstate are at their best there, when they’re drilling into a mundanity that’s very ‘90s in its ambitions, and those flashes of settling into that do start to percolate across Never Better. Just because they haven’t totally hit it yet doesn’t make this a write-off by any means, and for as incremental as their progression is, the signs that they’re getting there shouldn’t be ignored. They’re still just waiting to make the leap that a bit more time retooling could do for them, and while this is strong enough now, that’ll be where the real gold lies.
For fans of: Coast To Coast, Lower Than Atlantis, Gnarwolves
‘Never Better’ by Weatherstate is released on 11th February on Rude Records.
Words by Luke Nuttall