ALBUM REVIEW: Magnolia Park – ‘Baku’s Revenge’

A skeleton peering into a hole. There are multiple green eyes inside the hole.

On Baku’s Revenge’s intro track ?, frontman Joshua Roberts hits back at claims that Magnolia Park are a TikTok band, which mightn’t be a wholly stable stance to take. Even bypassing the fact that that’s where they initially blew up, here’s a debut of wholly contemporary pop-punk, favouring brevity as it falls cleanly under the half-hour, and with a song a few tracks in literally called Addison Rae. But hey, none of that is inherently bad, but what’s possibly more accurate is to say that Magnolia Park aren’t just a TikTok band. In other words, they don’t feel eternally shackled to that more restrictive climate as a lot do; in this area of the pop-punk ecosystem especially, it’s not hard to see traction for them.

That’s with the tremendous caveat that their limitations are rather blatant throughout, and how that too is more aligned with a certain zeitgeist the genre has upheld for a couple years now. No offence intended, but this is deepest in Machine Gun Kelly’s pop-punk pocket in its genre attitude, particularly on Drugs where the nihilism is too plain-spoken to be all that compelling. Elsewhere, wanting to break out of depressive cycles on Feel Something and find success to prove doubters wrong on Radio Reject are page one, line one of the Gen Z Pop-Punk Handbook, held firm in the broadest crevices of the genre.

The biggest difference between Magnolia Park and MGK though—and what sees them stick the landing to a degree frankly beyond comparison—is that they know how to avoid the more noxious or just plain uninteresting streaks of performativity that make his basic work so unlikable. While Roberts might seem unnecessarily confrontational across his interludes, perhaps ‘driven’ is a better descriptor, not looking to be beaten back anymore as Magnolia Park launch themselves into their work. That’s unquestionably mirrored in his vocals, and how that big, bellowing presence is the key galvaniser pretty much across the board. As far as monster hooks go, Addison Rae is leagues above where most pop-punk in this vein ends up, and that’s generally replicated across Baku’s Revenge as a whole. With the exception of Ghost 2 U as the noteworthy sole dud that’s more lumbering than what’s set up previously, the number of barnstorming melodies packed into this short album isn’t nothing.

It arguably leads to the best permutation of this variety of pop-punk, where the sense of exuberance and power pulls any and all weight that might be lacking elsewhere. A bit of a shallow lyric sheet can be glossed over with the right means elsewhere, something that Magnolia Park seem deftly aware of. It’s where the big guitar crunches and never-too-saccharine polish come in, as well as the noted hip-hop flair that’s become a regular in the genre lexicon as of late. But again, the application is key, and nothing about how Magnolia Park construct their work has anything close to the cynicism it can display elsewhere. Once again, drive is an important underlying factor in just how easily this goes down; had this been more restrained or delivered with less of a bellicose enormity, it probably wouldn’t work to the degree it does.

Though, that makes it seem as though Magnolia Park are teetering on a knife’s edge into flat, flaccid influencer-core, which really isn’t the case. There’s enough know-how of what makes this genre work to dispel any notion like that, clearly presented through the overall energy given off. Chances are that’ll serve it better live where their less innovative ends will have less bearing, but Baku’s Revenge just hits a sweet spot in its own right. For a band whose planet-sized hooks could well be indicative of a career on a similar scale, Magnolia Park can cover a lot.

For fans of: Machine Gun Kelly, Stand Atlantic, Cherie Amour

‘Baku’s Revenge’ by Magnolia Park is released on 4th November on Epitaph Records.

Words by Luke Nuttall

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