The Soundboard Stereo – April 2022

Festival season is on the horizon, the first proper one since 2019, and it’d be a complete lie to say it’s not wonderful to see. It always brings the best out of music as a whole, in both reaffirming the longstanding staples and letting the new blood shine, and this year especially feels like there’s a lot ready to come through. It also helps that release schedules tend to calm down a bit; May is already looking stacked, but June and beyond do seem a bit quieter overall. We’ll just have to see, but until then, here’s what’s been on The Soundboard Stereo throughout April…

A cartoon dinosaur in a burning city with its tail spikes caught in the road

Motion City Soundtrack

My Dinosaur Life

It’s a shame that Motion City Soundtrack have never got the wider appreciation they deserve. Even after their return in 2019 (which, as expected, was only given much gravity by those in the know), one of the standout bands of 2000s emo still isn’t being given their dues, something which you’d hope would be the case given the sound’s resurgence. There’s no reason why an album like My Dinosaur Life couldn’t find itself among those being rediscovered by a newer generation; it’s got an intelligence and a wit that still remains tremendously accessible, not to mention in A Life Less Ordinary (Need A Little Help) and Her Words Destroyed My Planet, two of the most obvious singles in the band’s catalogue. The comparisons to Jimmy Eat World are there in abundance, though they aren’t doubled down on to where it’s distracting. There’s a nerdiness that sets Motion City Soundtrack apart overall, where references to Veronica Mars and Ocarina Of Time are the sorts of pop culture bases that build character and scenery without bogging down the album as a whole. It’s where the fundamental flaws with dubbing this a ‘nerd-rock’ album lay, in that it distracts from the excellence that Motion City Soundtrack display elsewhere. The sound is crisp and polished as a bridge between the Warped Tour set and a more reputable emo set (fitting given Mark Hoppus on production), and proceeds to condense both sides into a more filling pop-rock prospect overall. It’s the last album that Motion City Soundtrack would make fully in that territory before moving towards a slightly older indie-rock sound, but they’ve continued to stay strong all the way up to their latest release in 2015. Maybe it’s time for a new one, especially when revisiting them has been this much fun. • LN

A model of a head and shoulders being blown away as if it were sand


A Rush Of Blood To The Head

If there’s one band who’ve run through the entire gauntlet of negative public perception, it’s Coldplay. While these days they’re chastised for their descent into trend-chasing pop mediocrity, their early career was plagued with the cries of pitchfork wielders begging for a smackerel of energy from the four-piece. It’s very much a ‘you get it or you don’t’ sound, but for those Coldplay’s brand of anthemia does click for, their early albums hold a special place in their heart. Second record A Rush Of Blood To The Head stretches debut Parachutes’ more organic sound into something more expansive and almost otherworldly. Let’s not beat around the bush – a lot of these songs drag on for far too long. But there’s obvious thought that’s gone into every bar of music here, building gorgeous atmospheres around magnetising motifs (take the iconic Clocks, for instance). Clocks and opener Politik are the most optimistic-sounding songs Coldplay had released at this point in their career. Though still a while away from the smiley pop of today, A Rush Of Blood To The Head is a small, necessary step in Coldplay’s career, home to some of their best singles. • GJ

A drawing of a heart hung in a noose from a tree

The Used

In Love And Death

Post-hardcore in the first half of the 2000s sounded like The Used’s In Love And Death. Few albums so succinctly capture the preconceptions of their scene—whether exaggerated over time or not—than this one, which can be both to its benefit and its very noteworthy detriment. In the latter case, it’s less the band’s fault and rather how the scene itself has aged, in emo lyrics and sweetened production that may hold some degree a nostalgia (read: a whole lot of nostalgia), but can objectively show its age now. Bert McCracken’s voice also has some of those baked-in issues, in the sharpness of his cleans that are only exacerbated by how saccharine the work around them is, and can really pop out on something like Light With A Sharpened Edge. But it would be wrong to suggest that amongst all of that, there isn’t a lot of fun to be had, simply in enjoying music this obviously unfashionable now that still continues to go for broke in the best way possible. The hook of I Caught Fire always has been and always will be undeniable, as one of The Used’s greatest characteristics in slightly latent theatricality really comes through strongly. That’s the case for most of the album too, a time capsule of a divisive era in rock, but one that can be so rich in terms of enjoyment. As for The Used on the whole, it’s been a bit rocky for them in terms of the sort of band they want to be, and tapping into this sound more recently hasn’t done them a lot of favours. They feel as though they’re driven by nostalgia primarily at this stage, a band in the right place at the right time, who managed to strike gold from within it. • LN

P!nk against a background a dragons with a wreath of roses in front of her


I’m Not Dead

With the gift of hindsight, P!nk’s musical journey is a pretty clear-cut one. She’s a classic singles artist that actively spat in the face of traditional pop star moulds in her early career, transitioning into a more wholesome presence in recent years. Her fourth album I’m Not Dead was her phoenix moment from the commercial failure of predecessor Try This, acting as her last word to the identity crisis plaguing her throughout that previous album cycle. This record boasts some of the best singles of P!nk’s career, perfectly balancing her supercharged pop-rock with the emotions she feels so strongly and communicates so well. The scathing takedown of sleazy men U + Ur Hand, the wistful grief of the beautiful Who Knew and pure head scramble of Leave Me Alone (I’m Lonely) make all of them feel like such special songs in such different ways, aging much better than not-like-other-girls-anthem Stupid Girls. Other moments on I’m Not Dead don’t quite get the balance right. The intention behind Dear Mr President (feat. Indigo Girls) is definitely commendable, but the execution is too on-the-nose, impeccable lyricism being the only thing stopping it being an essential Bush-era anthem. Conversations With My 13 Year Old Self is heavy subject matter with melodramatic production that’s hard to break into, while the sarcasm of I’ve Got Money Now is completely lost in the instrumentation, a more serious ode to P!nk’s R&B past. There’s lots to love about P!nk – her powerhouse voice, her huge anthemic choruses atop a pop-rock blend, her ability to make you break down in tears with her vulnerable moments and burst out laughing with her feisty witticisms. I’m Not Dead has all of these qualities spread across its tracklist, but it’s the moments where all of them converge (mostly singles) that are truly worth listening to. • GJ

A woman with her hand on her head against an ‘80s-style vapourwave background

Fickle Friends

You Are Someone Else

There’ll always be a candle burning for Fickle Friends, regardless of where they decide to go. They releases their second album at the very start of this year, which was a deviation into indie-rock that has still yet to pick up steam, really only bringing back memories of how strong they started initially. On the launchpad set up by The 1975, You Are Someone Else was among the better examples of the glossy, technicolour indie-pop to come from that wave, maybe a bit long for what it’s trying to achieve, but fully embracing the sense of light and shimmer that make songs like Swim and Lovesick so alluring. On top of that, between the tight production and Natassja Shiner’s clarion vocals, there’s such a self-evidently likability when it comes to synthpop in this lane. It’s almost to a point where there isn’t all that much to say about it, or really criticise. Sure, it doesn’t have the widest breadth of styles going for it and that means that some of its 16 tracks can bleed together, but the foundation is strong enough to where that isn’t a terrible issue. It’s just enjoyable as a sunny, all-rounder of an indie-pop album, making its limitations known but in a way that its strengths can shine brightly within them. Even with the knowledge of a good portion being compiled of singles dating back to 2014 (and the album itself came out in 2018, for the record), Fickle Friends aren’t the sort of band who’ll get hampered by that. It’s worth revisiting honestly, especially when they could use a bit more good will right now. • LN

A woman standing in a seductive post, unbuttoning her shirt and holding down her skirt

Cute Is What We Aim For

The Same Old Blood Rush With A New Touch

Cute Is What We Aim For’s is a name only ever in the peripheral of pop punk’s 2000s glory days, and looking at reviews of their 2006 debut album The Same Old Blood Rush With A New Touch, it’s easy to see why. The most obvious repellent to this album are the lyrical shortcomings. The words here are consistently clunky and often baffling to the point of hilarity (not a surprise if you’ve read that album title even once). There are plenty of examples to draw from, but singer and lyricist Shaant Hacikyan claiming to have a gift with one-liners in the same song he describes himself as “shallow as a shower” speaks for itself. The whole record seems to depict Hacikyan’s desire for sex in a world of high school cliques, all too comfortable to label describe his equally promiscuous partners as whores ruining their own reputations to give into his ‘obvious’ charm. Yes, this record came out in 2006 where this type of mindset was much more widespread, but the frequency with which Hacikyan displays it is definitely uncomfortable to listen to now. This record was crucified in all areas by many publications when it was released, and even though many aspects aren’t by themselves worth such vitriol, as a collective unit it’s easy to make such a case. The melodies are sometimes convoluted and borderline awkward (something bands like Taking Back Sunday and You Me At Six have been guilty of in their early days) and the vocals average, in need of some fine-tuning. Mixed together with the god-awful lyrics, you can tell that The Same Old… is a debut album written by amateurs chasing a pop punk dream they’ll never quite reach, even away from the hindsight of listening in 2022. • GJ

Words by Luke Nuttall (LN) and Georgia Jackson (GJ)

Leave a Reply