Unique yet stagnant, oddly enough.
Boston Manor are a band that's always seemed to linger at the periphery of the sub-genres in which they belong. Now ditching their former pop-punk aesthetic, the band no longer seems to fit into any sort of box or label; definitely one of the greatest things about them currently. Ever since 2018’s decent ‘Welcome to the Neighbourhood,’ Boston Manor has been defining a sound that is uniquely their own, and setting themselves aside from the pack of downright bad pop-punk and alternative rock bands. However, Boston Manor's sound only seems to amaze in shorter bursts.
The problem with Boston Manor is that for every genuinely great song they have, they write a derivative, uninteresting cut to pair alongside it. This is a major problem that I found with ‘Welcome to the Neighbourhood,’ and it seems as if that trend is only continuing with the band’s 2020 full-length LP, ‘Glue.’ Being 100% honest, there are some genuinely fantastic songs on 'GLUE.' If these particular tracks had been cut down into a shorter EP, we'd have one air-tight release. But therein lies the problem with 'GLUE.' Despite multiple listens through it as I type out this, I couldn’t tell you a single damned thing that happened on half of these songs. Because barely anything happens in.
On one hand, you have some stellar pieces of 90’s garage rock and grunge. Songs like the exceptional, jagged, and jittery ‘Everything Is Ordinary,’ which is complete with a barrage of glitchy guitars, booming drums, and an absolutely massive chorus, really set the mark for Boston Manor’s capabilities. ‘1’s & 0’s’ follows suit, feeling like an adequate successor to that monstrous opener. Even slower cuts like the chorus-y and tantalizing ‘Terrible Love,’ which slowly builds a tense atmosphere that sounds like something out of an 80’s movie’s score, shining like a beacon of light through the darkness of 'GLUE.' I’d easily consider it to be the best off the album, with its mesmerizing chorus and watery clean guitars. But for every single song as great as this powerhouse trio, Boston Manor gives you another four-minutes that you will forget by the end of the day, let alone by the end of the record.
The most glaring problem with ‘GLUE,’ that really ends up being the downfall of the record, is how absolutely bloated the tracklist is. One issue with this music - fast, energetic garage rock - is that it's best in shorter bursts, where it entertains while it exists and doesn’t overstay its welcome. But an album this long doesn't pair well with the genres that Boston Manor reside in, and there was a lot of fat trimming to be done that was instead ignored. For there are too many songs on this long, 51-minute LP that sound so similar to one another that it becomes hard to tell them apart. The poor 90’s radio rock chord progressions of ‘Plasticine Dreams’ are again borrowed in the even more boring ‘Brand New Kids,’ which features a cheesy chorus that gives me war-like flashbacks to the worst musical moments of my childhood. I also couldn’t tell you a single defining detail of the similar pair ‘Only1’ and ‘Playing God,’ aside from the odd nu-metal chorus heard on the latter. It’s in these moments where ‘GLUE’ stutters on the big momentum it first had.
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Even with these missteps, ‘GLUE’ still somehow manages to occasionally pull me back in. ‘On a High Ledge’ is another highlight on this wishy-washy record, using a swelling, trippy synth lead and cosmic, spacey vocal melodies to build a dark and unsettling mood. ‘You, Me & the Class War’ blazes with a booming, cathartic intro and a catchy-as-hell chorus that gives the track a big ‘Death Is A Warm Blanket’ era Microwave vibe, and as I adore that record, I have no complaints there. It is these moments on ‘GLUE’ that make me wish that every song felt as exciting and as energetic. Instead, with these moments being scattered few and far between, I find myself skipping through too-long, dull songs and constantly checking the clock. ‘GLUE,’ for the most part, burns through its first act at a breakneck pace, and even though it doesn’t slow down much in pacing and tempo, it suffers from the material getting old very quickly. Once you've heard Side-A, you don’t hear anything new, and that's frustrating.
Though one area that Boston Manor truly excel at on ‘GLUE' is powerful lyricism, which goes back and forth between detailing personal dilemmas and providing well-thought-out social commentary. The firey ‘You, Me & the Class War’ shows vocalist Henry Cox explosively detailing the struggles of feeling powerless in a relationship, with exceptional lines like “this isn’t love, this is a class war. What would you say? What would you do to me if I opened my mouth?”, perfectly encapsulating what it’s like to struggle with standing up for oneself. Elsewhere, ‘On a High Ledge’ takes you for a trip down to toxic masculinity lane, with lines like “father, I think I’m different. I don’t like playing with the other boys. I like the way the flowers smell” putting the listener into the mindset of men who struggle with being embarrassed by their feminine sides, something that society as a whole could really embrace more. Even the shockingly heavy closer, ‘Monolith,’ which features an awesome grungey breakdown section, stands out as an angsty teen anthem, with fun lyrics like “hey you, fuck you too! I do what I want when I want to.” Cheesy as all get-out? Yes, but still very entertaining to yell when jamming this album in the comfort of your own car.
Trust me, as MUCH as I want to love Boston Manor for the few fantastic hits they have here on 'GLUE,' they also seem unable to stop writing bland, flavorless tracks that sit alongside their greater works. The fact of the matter is, for every banger like an ‘Everything Is Ordinary’ or a ‘Terrible Love’ you get from this band, you also get a ‘Plasticine Dreams’ or an ‘Only1.’ ‘GLUE’ does not hold up as a cohesive unit, even with the few genius moments that it contains. Regardless, Boston Manor have the potential to write one such cohesive, great album - I know they can one day do it. They've proven that untapped strength of unique creativity is there time and time again, but we still haven’t gotten that album. I sincerely hope they learn to better match an album’s pacing with its overall length, all the while keeping the occasional variety in their songs which they've been building up nicely with their past two releases, better learning to utilize their talents to make something spectacular in the future. I very much look forward to that day.
01. Everything Is Ordinary
02. 1’s & 0’s
03. Plasticine Dreams
04. Terrible Love
05. On A High Ledge
07. You, Me & The Class War
08. Playing God
09. Brand New Kids
11. Stuck In The Mud
12. Liquid ft. John Floreani
'GLUE' is out Friday, May 1st: