By Chloë Williams, Columnist
Last month, indie rock band The Front Bottoms released their new album, “Going Grey.” This album contains the quirky lyrics their fans love, but plays with more electronic elements than the band’s typical sound. Audiences can find thought-provoking tracks like “Raining,” and the eccentric fun-loving songs like “Peace Sign.” The Front Bottoms gained popularity by writing songs about what it means to live life, whether that means contemplative conversations in the A.M.’s or riding around town with your best friends. “Going Grey” expands on these themes through immersive tracks that are relatable on every level.
While several reviews of the new release have criticized The Front Bottoms for a lack of lyrical depth and regressive sound, these statements remain completely unfounded. Listeners will be pleased to find The Front Bottoms experimentation with new sound elements both refreshing and authentic to their unique style. What critics fail to acknowledge is that no Front Bottoms song is the same in terms of content. The sheer fact that lyrics range from “wicked roots that take me under are twisted up on the inside” to “Hi, I’m Marth from Hell” conjures the band’s signature charm. If you expected anything else on a Front Bottoms album, you are listening to the wrong band.
The Front Bottoms are not meant to be judged in terms of high art forms, but instead embraced as an empathetic description of all parts of the human experience. These themes can be found in the upbeat “Far Drive,” a song that describes the simple pleasure of enjoying time on the road with the people you love. Starting off with a catchy backbeat followed by fast-paced bass rhythms and a quick guitar solo, this track is one of the highlights on “Going Grey.” “Far Drive” will make you dance, head-bang and think about the people you hold close. Shaky vocal delivery makes this song about the importance of friendships that much more endearing. This song is the perfect example of how The Front Bottoms are not diverging from, but redefining their sound.
While “Far Drive” retains many of the qualities of past Front Bottoms albums, “Grand Finale” displays a more prominent example of the band’s progressing sound. A twinkling piano chime and synthesizers follow through the entirety of the song, yet these elements retain the same stylistic properties of any Front Bottoms song. Unlike many other rock bands that have survived to see 2017, The Front Bottoms have proven that an artist can use synthesizers without hanging up all their guitars. Furthermore, The Front Bottoms have shown that they can successfully transform their sound without destroying it, something that many surviving rock bands from the 2000s and 2010s are currently struggling with.
Another notable track from “Going Grey” is the aurally-enticing “Vacation Town” which features several different musical components working together in quite unexpected ways. Shakers, swirling synthesizers and a brass hook blend with usual rock elements to create a unique piece. The spoken-word delivery of the second verse overlaid with a desperate, pleading rendition of the same lines creates a peculiar vocal delivery that works. The constant shifting of components make the song fascinating to hear and serve as a testament to the creative abilities of the band. “Vacation Town” is an audio experience that will both calm and excite the listener.
The problem with album reviews looking to pick out and examine the guts of “Going Grey” is The Front Bottoms are not a band that should be critiqued. Oftentimes their music comes down to a simple “you either like it or you don’t.” The band’s content, while having certain notable elements, is wholly unpredictable. What you can predict is this: strange lyrics, fast-paced distortion guitars and a questionable vocal delivery from singer Brian Sella. To fans, these elements create a distinctive musical experience that is not easily found elsewhere. To critics, The Front Bottoms are the worst band they have ever heard.
By analyzing the technical aspects of The Front Bottoms, the entire point of the band’s music is lost. This is not a discredit to the musicianship of the band, but rather an acknowledgement towards the band’s purpose and overall message. The Front Bottoms make music for everyone that describes what we all go through. Furthermore, this band writes what they want and are not worried about pleasing anyone with their music. Their songs, while developed on the new album, remain raw and true. The vocal performance is not meant to be judged on pitch-perfection, but rather as a testament to the importance of the music to the band itself. If you are looking for something quite different that constantly changes pace and tone, look no further than “Going Grey,” the latest album by one of the most genuine bands on the rock scene today.