For Fans Of
When sitting down to listen to ‘Never Happy, Ever After’, the debut album from UK upstarts As It Is, there is one very important thing to remember. Just because something is cliché doesn’t mean it’s bad. This is a pop punk record. It’s going to have the cheesy hooks, the rhymes about lost girlfriends and evoke those nostalgic images of skating around your neighbourhood in those three-quarter lengths you got for Christmas, your snapback firmly in place. As far as pop punk goes ‘Never Happy, Ever After’ will give you all you need to satisfy the emotional teen inside you. But despite the predictability, As It Is produce a few twists that reminds us of the old cliché that sometimes, there is more than what meets the eye.
Make no mistake, As It Is aren’t out to revolutionise the genre. “Why should I stick around, when all I do is let you down?” cries vocalist Patty Walters, kicking off album opener ‘Speak Soft’ in classic, heartbroken fashion. ’Speak Soft’ would fit nicely into an All Time Low record, with its thumping chorus bound to get dance floors churning across the world. Follow up track ‘Cheap Shots and Setbacks’ follows suit, with an infectiously catchy chorus. Listeners are bound to notice the rhythmical intensity displayed in ‘Cheap Shots’, with drummer Patrick Foley displaying a diverse array of beats and fills, moving between subtle tom rolls, triplet fills and half time grooves. This rhythmical diversity carries across the album, particularly notable after the bridge of ‘Dial Tones’, with an extra dimension added to the music as a result.
As the album progresses, other exotic flavours of punk can be heard. Personal favourite ‘Sorry’ still grooves and bops like a pop-punk standard. However, the sharing of vocals between Walters and guitarist Benjamin Biss throughout the verse is refreshing, with Biss adding a pinch of melodic hardcore with his gravely melodic shouts. Despite the Simple Plan and Medina Lake influences, some Neck Deep can be heard here too, with the gang vocals towards the end of the song simply adding to this sentiment. The same can be said for ‘Concrete’, a dynamic, thumping song that keeps up the energy throughout the middle of the album.
One thing As It Is do well is song selection, with the middle portion of the album containing arguably the record’s most creative songs. ‘Can’t Save Myself’ even goes as far as to offer up a tempo change- unheard of in the modern pop-rock world. Gentle closer, the wordy ‘You, The Room and The Devil on My Shoulder’, is also well placed, offering a nice reflective ending which allows the listener to wind down and appreciate the beautiful vocal harmonies that the band tastefully save.
‘Never Happy, Ever After’ is a dynamic record, and As It Is are careful not to repeat the same song twice. This can, at times, mean some songs tend to feel a tad forced for the sake of being different- i.e. the darkly titled ‘Drowning Deep in Doubt.’ While the song serves as somewhat of a breather and shows off Walters’s softer side, as well as an anthemic chorus, it feels like it doesn’t really go anywhere. ‘Oceans Into Lakes’ however is a well crafted ballad that builds up to its climax without dragging its feet, and displays the knack As It Is have for song-writing.
Yes, pop punk has been done to death. And yes, maybe at times we try too hard to resurrect the glory days of the skate parks of 2009 and earlier. However, As It Is prove that the genre can still be both interesting and listenable when approached with a creative mindset. There’s a lot to like about ‘Never Happy, Ever After’. A majority of it has been done before, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
1. Speak Soft
2. Cheap Shots & Setbacks
4. Drowning Deep In Doubt
5. Dial Tones
6. My Oceans Were Lakes
8. Turn Back To Me
9. Can’t Save Myself
10. Silence (Pretending’s So Comfortable)
11. You, The Room & The Devil On Your Shoulder