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Real Friends have made it well and truly obvious on their previous EP releases that commitment and sincerity goes a long way, however it’s flexibility, on the boys first LP, that is the secret to their success. Maybe This Place Is The Same, and We’re Just Changing may well be the title of the Illinois group’s debut LP, but at the same time, it says a lot about where Real Friends stand at the moment, in punk and in relation to other bands. Testing and broadening the boundaries and fault lines of the parameters of pop punk and emo, Real Friends have given it everything they have this time around, and with exceptional results.
As a demonstration of a level of maturity that the band has acquired since their last release, ‘Maybe This Place Is the Same…’ is a vivid example of atmosphere and an element of suspense, just as the vigorous delivery of Dan Lambton’s vocals punch through the sluggish guitar melodies and overwhelm the hypnotic vibe of the track. As strong in their execution as ever, Lambton’s vocals carry the record through to the next track, ‘I Don’t Love You Anymore,’ which dresses up pop punk melodies with a decisive and abrasive injection of something heavier. Intelligently designing a fuller sound on the edifice of accessibility, Real Friends have established a more unforgiving sound on the debut record.
Further into the album, on tracks like ‘Cover You Up,’ ‘Loose Ends’ and ‘Old Book’ this tentative dynamic between a catchy, pop punk vibe and a more mature and harnessed sound, is carved out onto a diverse palate of consistently assured material. Both ‘Loose Ends’ and particularity, ‘Old Book’ cast aside the usual resentful and bitter grumbles about ex girlfriends and old loves (see later track, ‘Summer’), for something of more substance. Lyrics like ‘getting older scares the shit out of me, I’m and old book’ and ‘I know I’ve got loose ends, leaving me to spend too many nights driving down dead ends’ iterate a more decisive attempt to dig deep and connect with their listeners.
‘Sixteen’ performs the part of the acoustic charmer on the album, while ‘To- My Old Self,’ playing a similar role, counteracts the subtle instrumental and vocal vigour of the former track, with a shift in tone. On ‘To – My Old Self’, the vocals lose the authority that they held in the first half of the LP, sounding tired and defeated– an effective mimic of the kind of approach that the band takes to their lyrical content. Once again, on ‘Spread Me All Over Illinois’ the group is coming across as leaps and bounds ahead of the level of maturity they have displayed in past offerings. The outfit appears to have a tighter grip, and a better understanding, of how they want to sound.
Having been given a bigger paddock to prance around in, Real Friends haven’t let all of the freedom go to their heads, having instead produced a record that is both sensible and adventurous. Maybe This Place Is The Same, and We’re Just Changing is an exceptional demonstration of the growing maturity of a band, who, with time, could characterise their genre.
1. Maybe This Place Is The Same…
2. I Don’t Love You Anymore
3. Cover You Up
4. Old Book
6. Loose Ends
7. Short Song
9. Spread Me All Over Illinois
10. To: My Old Self
11. I Think I’m Moving Forward
12. …And We’re Just Changing