By Mollie Campbell.
Members: Braeden Lemasters (Vocals, lead guitar, bass guitar), Dylan Minnette (Vocals, rhythm guitar, keyboards), Cole Preston (Drums, backing vocals).
Genre: Indie, Indie-Rock, Alternative.
The album opener ‘Only Friend’ is just the kind of opening track you would expect from this indie/alternative trio, a catchy, fuzzy riff accompanied by the nonchalant style of singing that they execute so well. It is simple in a musical sense, which fits in with the laid back vibe of the song, a relaxed introduction to an interesting album. The lyrics paint a picture of modern life and what it entails for young people, the loneliness in a Social media driven world, and the isolation that comes with the transition into adulthood. I like that they used the riff right up until the end of the song without any pause, as it shifts into the next track. It really sets up the concept of the album and the continuity we will be following as listeners.
Next is ‘Treacherous Doctor’, opening with a catchy and rocky riff mirroring the sound of 2000’s British indie bands, is a brutally honest reflection of the band’s feelings of hopelessness in the world in 2019. The lyrics: ‘You grow up, gone, so what’s the point of connecting to anyone? Is a relationship bought or is it won?’ really highlights the negatives behind modern love and relationships, and seems to be telling us that despite Social media being there to connect with people, it can actually make you feel even less connected, and in tune with your own sense of isolation and loneliness instead. The song has an interesting instrumental section, full of loud crash symbols, it seems to be a random exertion of energy, possibly mirroring the emotional distress they are singing about, before resolving back to the message they are trying to portray. I wouldn’t say this is a particular highlight of the album, it is kind of monotonous at times, but that might be the point, and I appreciate the attempt.
The next track is ‘Sidelines’, portraying the classic tale of ending a relationship with someone, but still caring about them. The narrator is breaking up with his girlfriend, but he can’t help watching from a distance, on the sidelines, he begins to regret his decision when he sees her with someone else, and he can’t help but think about it: “I see you loving on the sidelines, I think about it at the wrong times, I see you loving on the sidelines, (I don’t wanna know), who you’ll be taking with you tonight”. Musically, the album is indie-rock/alternative, but certain songs like ‘Sidelines’ have poppy undercurrents, resulting in a much more mainstream sound. The bareness to the drums and the lucidity of the lyrics actually work well, the simplicity creates a clever result, a good transition song, linking the opening to the bulk of the album. The next song and the first single ‘Are you bored yet?’ featuring Clairo, gives the listener another perspective on the album concept, a refreshing female voice to prevent any kind of monotonous tone that may be starting to grow. The lyrics centre around two people in a relationship wondering if their time has come and whether the other person is bored or not, I like the way Minnette sings at the same time as Clairo, portraying the idea that often people are thinking the same things in a relationship as opposed to the perceived opposite stance, and that sometimes the relationship comes to an end in a really natural way. There doesn’t seem to be much of a sadness portrayed, mostly because there is a sense of trying to salvage what is being broken: “ If you could tell me how you’re feeling, maybe we’d get through this undefeated”.
‘Scrawny’, the second single, begins with that customary Wallows sound, an indie-rock riff accompanied by a fragmentary style of singing. This light-hearted interjection serves as a buffer between more serious themes on the album, with the narrator referring to himself as a ‘Scrawny motherfucker with a cool hairstyle’ several times. I like the vibrant style of drumming and the clean sounding guitar riffs in between choruses, and nonchalance of the lyrics. ‘Ice cold pool’ provides us with nostalgic basslines and trombone licks, this delves into the exciting unpredictability of youth, and how much we want to hang on to this sense of invincibility of our teenage/young adult years: “What’s the fun if you know what’s comin’?, I don’t want to escape it’. I love the carpe diem attitude to the song, mirroring what the majority of the target audience is feeling at this point in our lives, the idea of living for the now before we grow older and less passionate: “The plant inside that never seemed to die, you cut it down before the leaves were brown, the gate was closed, we know that we’re too old, the pool is cold, the pool is cold”. For me, this is an album highlight; it gives us an infectious sense of inspiration to experience life fully before it is time to grow up, and the inevitability of the passage time.
The next track ‘World’s Apart’ is quite plain musically; the lyrics are the real focus. It focuses on the questions that are running through the narrators mind when he feels as though he is becoming even more disconnected in his relationship with each day, it also delves into the concept of an empty love and the problems involved when trying to decipher whether your feelings are real or just a façade: “Am I afraid of you? Or do I pretend I don’t care? Just like the stars can tell all the worlds apart”. It may also be touching on the emptiness of Hollywood and the superficiality that seems to be infectious: “A voice in the hall, you’re famous for something, it’s hard to recall”…are they simply together as an attempt to not feel alone in the LA bubble they find themselves in? The next verse: “Do I exist in your heart? Or did the ship sail away while I was in the gift shop? You swim with the sharks, and I know we’re worlds apart” May be referring to the narrator losing his partner to the magnetism of fame and superficiality, the gift shop could be a metaphor for the tourist and fame centred town they are in, attracting swarms of people that they are getting lost within. And at the end of the day, no matter how hard he tries to keep it together, he knows that it’ll never work because they are literally ‘World’s Apart’. This is clearly an important message for this Los Angeles – based band.
The next song ‘What You Like’ seems to be a continuation of ‘World’s Apart’, but from a completely different perspective, this time the narrator is admitting to not really being switched on in his relationship, and not paying any real attention to the personality of his partner: “Go ahead, tell me now, what you like, maybe this time I’ll listen, go ahead, tell me now, what you like, maybe this time”. He is now regretting not listening to her and being as present in the relationship as he should have been, because now she is distancing herself from him: “You’ve got a new place in the world, that I can’t find”. I like the instrumental before the final two verses, it is kind of hectic and chaotic, representing the mess the narrator finds himself in. ‘Remember When’ begins with a nostalgic ‘Every Breath You Take’ vibe in terms of its opening riff, it is clean and musically pleasing/catchy. Then it switches to a deeper and more prominent riff before the vocals come in. The song, which runs for less than 3 minutes, is a catchy and easy listening indie track. The lyrics seem to be focused on the nostalgia of memories, and possibly the idea of navigating through the false perceptions and deception of adulthood and the ‘real world’, a polar opposite to the freedom of youth, as we grow older we are less trusting: “Thought I saw your shadow under the door, just a trick of the light I’ve seen before, I can never tell what’s real anymore, anymore, anymore”. It also deals with a lost relationship that he has left behind, and the fact that he feels kind of embarrassed for wanting to revisit that period in his life.
The penultimate track on the album ‘I’m Full’, is an energetic song with twangs of nostalgia as it reflects on themes portrayed earlier on in the album, for example, using the lyrics of previous songs: ‘Tell me what you like’, ‘You’re my only friend’. This song was actually written by the band years ago, meaning that it was probably the basis of the whole concept for this album; this is the foundation and a really important one at that. It is interesting that they put it at the end of the album; a literal confirmation of the idea’s we as listeners have been surmising throughout. The lyrics seem to be encapsulating the idea of bad habits that we cannot break out of no matter how hard we try, the things that are slowly killing us are always disguised as our friends. “I’m at it again, alone with a friend”, this precedes a loud instrumental. Then the voice becomes distorted and echoed, as the narrator pleads with someone, possibly himself, before letting out a tortured scream. The guitars become heavier and the drums get louder as the song reaches its end, this is a much more complex track and is quite impressive for a penultimate track due to its quality, and haunting concepts. It is a very raw and honest song, leading us into the final track: ‘Do Not Wait’.
The final song is over 6 minutes long, and whilst it does have a lot of interesting instrumentation, the music seems to have taken a back seat in order to focus fully on the richer and more complex lyrics. A raw and personal end to a meaningful and honest album: “You will say you’re dreaming up a way, you’re dreaming up a way to explode, there’s a time you’ll seek out a disguise, when you think people hate you the most, and it gets worse before it gets better, that’s one thing that I have come to know”. As the song continues, the dynamics of the music itself shift back into focus, acting as a prop to the story being told so deeply. There are some interesting distorted guitar licks before constant repeats of the line ‘Nothing Happens’, they finally delve into the meaning behind the album title. The song is continuous yet fragmented, almost as if the lyrics and music were written in the style of chapters.
Overall, this is an impressive effort for a debut album, giving us an insight into what this band is all about, and the promising future that awaits them.