Isn’t it strange that, after all the hoopla around pop-punk’s TikTok wave and how it was ‘revitalising’ the genre, it’s gone basically nowhere? Not to say “told ya so” or anything, but music with such an obvious shelf life as that was always going to fizzle out before it made any profound impact, and with it now dead apart from a few stragglers, pop-punk is in one of its customary fallow periods. And whenever that comes around, it’s usually cause for a handful of bands to try and break things wide open to redefine the genre, and continue the cycle anew. It’s tiresome to watch get lifted up and dropped unceremoniously every time, but as music discourse needs a new flavour of the millisecond to become divided about, so must pop-punk bands bear that cross, it seems.
But does it have to be like that? Can’t bands just stick to what they know and prosper in that way? Well, you’d think so, but that rarely seems to be the case with how on-the-fly music seems to be evolving and shifting these days. So when you get a band like Bearings—who’ve never been at the forefront of anything—releasing a new album during such a determined period of flux, it might lead to the most interesting position they’ve ever found themselves in. As a band whose ‘go with the flow’ attitude has been their primary characteristic, The Best Part About Being Human could finally be where they define themselves away from the many, many second- and third-stringers of pop-punk.
Or, y’know, they could just carry on mostly as they have been. It’s a bit of an anticlimax to say, but indeed, Bearings aren’t pushing the boat out in any conceivable way here. Instead, they’re throwing it right back to the pop-punk of 2020, where they fully embraced the gloss and shimmer that was all the rage back then, and would prove to be another fad with absolutely zero staying power. Thus, The Best Part About Being Human’s biggest sin is how outdated it feels, even though, in all reality, it probably shouldn’t. But as the metamorphosed pop-punk comes to a head with the time-sink that was the entire pandemic era, Bearings don’t have much of a leg to stand on. This feels underdeveloped and hollow, held above water by its to-be-expected catchiness, but seldom in a way that rescues it.
At least there’s the knowledge that this feels like a genuine swing instead of cynical push. There’s nary a trap implant or a lazy rap cadence to be found, much to Bearings’ credit when they’re clearly aware of how they’d likely come off even worse. The fact that Ocean Dream peels back to reveal a winding saxophone break is proof on its own for where Bearings are looking; with all the shiny new wave coating elsewhere, it’s even harder to miss. And in the way that someone like Seaway was able to utilise that to their advantage, Bearings are on not-dissimilar wavelength. Granted, that too had the benefit of era appropriateness at its disposal, but there’s a freewheeling charm to Don’t Wanna Forget About It or Go Long that breaks through regardless. The whole album feels suitably easygoing, as if to dismiss the curdled, overly angsty fare brought to pass by the influencers, in favour of big swells and bright emotions all the way. It’s a bit maudlin, mind, particularly when the closer Human practically force-feeds its sentiment when the opening line is “The best part about being human / Is being alive”, but it isn’t objectionable either.
But that’s also the strongest emotion that Bearings are capable of mustering, now or really ever. They might court big, open skies and the freedom to run and seek out their own path, but it never feels as exciting as they want it to. It feels the complete opposite, in fact—shallow and restrictive, as they remain tied to the same shackles as they did two-and-a-half years ago. Gone So Gone and Blood Jam are the sharp, groovy, immovably gated neon-pop pivots; Slip is the blown-out anthem where the waves upon waves of production congeal into a formless mass; Shaking Up The Scenery and I Want To Heal are the more rock-oriented numbers to serve as a reminder that pop isn’t the main thing Bearings are doing. It’s just really forgettable above all else, seldom awful but also with nothing that’d force anyone to pay attention. More often than not, it just brings up reminders of pop-punk waves past and how long ago they now seem.
So in essence then, it’s the complete opposite of what Bearings presumably want this to be. It’s kind of a shame when they’re yet again incapable of being more than totally innocuous, but that’s what happens when the inability to find a unique personality is clamped down upon by how common an occurrence that is in pop-punk. A lot of those acts have been cut back now, so kudos to Bearings for hanging on, at least. It’s probably the biggest achievement they’ve got here, which doesn’t say a great deal as far as output is concerned. Other than some better-than-average name recognition, they’ve not got much going for them as far as establishing a good framework for whatever their genre looks set to morph into. A base level of catchiness only goes so far when there’s actual competition to deal with.
For fans of: State Champs, Seaway, Between You & Me
‘The Best Part About Being Human’ by Bearings is released on 18th August on Pure Noise Records.
Words by Luke Nuttall