Movement’s Feel Something felt like a moment that plenty of acts find difficult to capture. It was a debut album that presented them as a band capable of sitting on top of the world; you’d get emo communities gushing over Daylily nonstop, as just one highlight on an album that only seems to have appreciated in value over time. And then, when 2020’s No Good Left To Give came around, the chirping crickets could be heard for miles. It wasn’t even like that album was particularly bad, but it moved in directions in emo that mightn’t have sat as comfortably, and painted Movements as a band with different ambitions that being the newest prospective emo darlings.
So with that in mind, RUCKUS! appears to pitch all of that out of the window in favour of wild, flagrant course correction. What that course they’re trying to correct is, though, is a bit up in the air, as Movements flail through numerous new additions to their sonic catalogue in ways that can be difficult to parse. And yet, the seed of something is here. Movements’ high floor ensures that, and each scattered pinprick on the musical map has enough in its own right to yield something interesting. But if you’re insistent on bringing it all together…well, RUCKUS! is as messy as its name implies, even while managing to extract a bit of the fun from it in the abstract.
It’s probably worth addressing the issues first though, seeing as that’s what informs this album the most—as Movements’ attempt at breaking their ex-emo guise wide open to mine every possible corner of it, RUCKUS! doesn’t really work. Repeat listens don’t help either, in what takes the form of a loose-hanging, patchwork assemblage of pop and indie and post-hardcore, trying to meet in the middle in some way. A lot of individual components are added, but it’s hard to see how they culminate, or strengthen Movements’ catalogue as a whole. Heaven Sent is maybe the furthest outside of what’s workable, as a chiming synth tone sits on top of jangling, lounging guitars and Patrick Miranda’s most shrunken, saccharine vocals yet to coagulate as a cloying, lukewarm emo-pop love song.
That’s just an isolated example, too; as a whole, there are tonal shifts and motifs that struggle to coalesce at all. Tightrope is a tender, generally understated ballad that gives off plenty of Coldplay vibes on occasion, followed by the 180 of I Hope You Choke with its gnashing and angst. Neither are bad in execution or idea, but that just highlights further how wonky RUCKUS! is with exceptional regularity. There are songs that’ll pull from totally different palettes of influence, presumably intended to sit as a dynamic body of work but without the connective tissue to do so. And when it’s all corralled into a mid-range that doesn’t allow Movements to let loose like they really can, it can be a more debilitating issue than just “some songs sound different”.
It becomes far more useful to consider each track in a vacuum in that case, to see the individual qualities that mightn’t be apparent within a body of work. Not the most useful listening technique when considering a full album, but it’s where the best results are pulled from RUCKUS! nonetheless. So in that case, Lead Pipe and AMP twist around pop-rock in some interesting ways each—the former more chugging and robust; the latter through thinned-out guitars and a heftier rhythm section—and You’re One Of Us Now, Fail You and Coeur D’Alene opt for the darker, stormier emo that put Movements on the map. There are plenty other spaces occupied within that range, all done so in fairly successful ways. RUCKUS! definitely lays claim to some of Movements’ stickiest hooks, which when given a certain amount of gusto, assimilate into a pop-rock / alt-pop mould pretty well. It was never an expected swerve from them, but Tightrope or AMP show how it’s got some fruitful bits to it.
If it were the piecemeal blocks being judged here, where the throughlines of certain sounds would be allowed to connect, it would undoubtedly welcome more praise. But, unfortunately for Movements, that isn’t the case, and as a body of work, RUCKUS! is considerably less than the sum of its parts. It’s an odd, bitty experiment that zigs and zags and finds it hard to stick the landing, and really dampens some otherwise decent impulses. Not enough to fully write it off—the sporadic instances of quality do add up, after all—but RUCKUS! can really drop the ball as a satisfying listen from front to back. It’s a shame that’s the case, with how easy it is to see what just a few tweaks could’ve done with great efficiency.
For fans of: Citizen, Real Friends, This Wild Life
‘RUCKUS!’ by Movements is released on 18th August on Fearless Records.
Words by Luke Nuttall