For Fans Of
Since entering my early twenties, the pop-punk genre and I have been drifting further and further apart. Sure, there are still certain pop-punk albums and songs that I will always love, but by and large, the strong relationship I once had with pop-punk slowly withers away more and more each year.
For when I look towards someone like a long-running, “pack-leader” band such as Blink-182, the quantity-over-quality release that was 2016’s subpar ‘California’ and the insipid material they keep churning out, my heart sinks. Worse still, things aren’t looking that great elsewhere either.
Yellowcard are now gone, Simple Plan still show no signs of topping their first two records, Veara, Set Your Goals, and Four Year Strong have fallen off the map in indefinite stagnation, and I’m concerned how much more emotion and personal anecdotes can be extracted from Soupy for the next Wonder Years record. Sum 41’s ‘13 Voices‘ was solid at it’s very best but made me yearn for a record that reached the heights of ‘Chuck‘ or ‘All Killer No Filler‘. All Time Low have done the inevitable for bands of their ilk and ditched the “rock” and incredibly loose “punk” element of their sound in favour of a further poppy trajectory. And while Millencolin’s next record will most likely be decent, those Swedes aren’t getting any younger and the gap between their releases only continues to expand with time.
While I’m not the biggest fan of them, there are a handful of younger, “new wave” bands doing good things for the genre, from current scene front runners like State Champs, Neck Deep, The Story So Far (even if the latter’s self-titled record left much to be desired). Then there are the smaller but nonetheless great acts such as Chunk! No, Captain Chunk, Trash Boat or Australia’s own Set The Score that instils me with hope for pop-punk’s future. Yet in saying that, an up and comer like Waterparks dismay me completely, and I can only agree with the scathing review that writer Ben Buchnat penned for The Daily Nebraskan regarding that group’s ‘Double Dare‘ record; labelling it one of the worst pop-punk records of recent memory. Cause he wasn’t wrong.
Some will now speak up and say, “But Alex, you utter fucking pillock whose reviews are way too long, what about New Found Glory? They’re still going strong!“.
Ah yes, Florida’s New Found Glory, a band that’s acted as either a key musical influence or a source of inspiration for most of, if not all of the bands I mentioned in the above paragraphs. But no, I must say that New Found Glory aren’t going strong, at least not now with their ninth record, ‘Makes Me Sick‘.
I’ve enjoyed this group for the longest time now, they’re a truly great live act and they’ve got some damn fine albums to their name (you know the ones I mean), but sadly ‘Makes Me Sick‘ isn’t one of those standout entries. Furthermore, excluding its two singles, I highly doubt that a majority of these ten songs will secure themselves as live set hallmarks. Am I maybe expecting too much from this genre and bands such as this? Perhaps, but make no mistake, it honestly brings me no real pleasure to say that ‘Makes Me Sick‘ is one of New Found Glory’s weakest records yet.
Right away, the decent-enough opener ‘Your Jokes Aren’t Funny‘ indeed shows that the passing of time hasn’t altered New Found Glory’s pop-punk sound or their formula in the slightest bit, with its overall pacing, structure, melodies and big choruses. Which sets the scene for this record being a large retread of an album overall.
On the flip side, ‘The Sound Of Two Voices‘ is the sonic representation of this record’s artwork; a chilled-out timbre, laidback tempo, soft piano parts, added bongo percussion, and lush guitar lines mixed in with acoustic guitars. This really feels like a long lost B-side from ‘Coming Home‘ – the sole mellow and mature record of the band’s discography – but it’s the only real moment of musical variation for this release, unfortunately.
However, the chirpy, chorus-affected guitar riffs on ‘Say It Don’t Spray It‘ are a really nice touch and that song, more so than most others on offer, nails both the band’s poppy and punk attitudes at the same time. The guitar leads in ‘Short And Sweet‘ take on the expressiveness and nature of wedding bells (I swear I can actually hear bells in the mix’s background) that help signify the song’s romantic origins, aided by rather sappy lyrics of “I don’t deserve someone as beautiful as you/I don’t deserve much of anything”. As far as New Found Glory’s many, many romantically inclined, relationship songs go, ‘Short And Sweet‘ ain’t even close to being one of the better ones! The same goes for the grown-man-attempts-teenage-heartache of album closer ‘The Cheapest Thrill‘, whose namesake sums up the actual song and album perfectly – a cheap, albeit catchy thrill that goes in one ear and leaves the other just as soon as it entered.
‘Party On Apocalypse’ would have been better served being titled “Old Men Yell At Clouds” due to its lyrical content of berating the social media age and the “over-critical creatures” (read: youth) of today. Although! Lyrics aside, I find this song to be a great example of the band’s songwriting abilities and how they can still load up and execute a truly infectious pop-punk tune. The very same can be said for the record’s other ear-worming single, ‘Happy Being Miserable‘. Releasing these two songs as pre-release singles was a smart but safe move to make, yet sadly, it’s only these two singles, alongside ‘Say It Don’t Spray It‘, that are the only real standouts found within ‘Makes Me Sick‘. Everything else on offer, while passable, isn’t worthy of any further praise.
Excluding the bright, poppy and highly cheesy synth parts sprinkled across this record (‘Call Me Anti-Social‘ and ‘The Cheapest Thrill‘, for instance), the band’s catchy major key melodies, high-register vocals, typical rock arrangement and chord progressions are as you can gather, all presented within their unwavering pop-punk format. Meaning that album #9 is, through and through, just more New Found Glory.
And therein lies the core problem!
As of April 2017, this American quartet has a vast yet solid repertoire of music at their disposal, but an ever-growing majority of it falls under the same old catchy, but “heavy” pop-punk sound that’s been a highly resourceful template for other bands to pull from. At the very least, there’s three other similar yet all greatly stronger, more satisfying records from Ted Cruz-lookalike Jordan Pundik, guitarist Chad Gilbert, bassist Ian Grushka, and tight-as-fuck drummer Cyrus Bolooki that I could listen to instead; that I will listen to instead. Thus, this new record doesn’t make me feel sick, just really, really curious and concerned as to when an actually different album from this veteran group will come along.
You know, maybe it’s about time that we got another NFG record a la ‘Coming Home‘ to change things up.
Absolute Punk’s Thomas Nassiff said in his review of 2014’s ‘Ressurection’ that,”The worst part about this album is that it feels like New Found Glory writing a New Found Glory record for the sake of writing a New Found Glory record“, scoring it 4/10. While I don’t agree on Nassiff’s thoughts on that particular record (I think it’s got some real bangers on it), his statement of New Found Glory writing another record for the sheer sake of it rings incredibly true here.
‘Makes Me Sick’ is nowhere near on the same level as ‘Sticks & Stones’ and ‘Catalyst’ nor a later but nonetheless solid release such as 2009’s ‘Not Without A Fight’. Hell, this album isn’t even ‘Resurrection’! So you’d do best to slot this new record alongside the lesser NFG releases, such as the so-so ‘Nothing Gold Can Stay’, the dated, overly repetitive self-titled record, and 2011’s utterly mundane ‘Radiosurgery’. (Honestly, the only good thing that came out of that was their ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ cover. It’s okay to admit it, folks.)
1. Your Jokes Aren’t Funny
2. Party On Apocalypse
3. Call Me Anti-Social
4. Happy Being Miserable
5. The Sound Of Two Voices
6. Blurred Vision
7. Say It Don’t Spray It
8. Barbed Wire
9. Short And Sweet
10. The Cheapest Thrill
‘Makes Me Sick’ is out April 28th via Hopeless Records/UNFD. And honestly, you should just go listen to the new Ghouls record instead – that shit’s good!
Also, I was considering quoting Aaron Eckhart’s Harvey Dent for this review’s summary. You know the one – “You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain” – but it was too long and made the top of the review look out of place. Sigh.