The Front Bottoms

Back On Top

Written by: TL on 29/09/2015 17:15:26

The New Jersey-based slacker pop-songwriters in The Front Bottoms are back this year with a new album, ironically titled "Back On Top" following the success of their previous albums "Talon Of The Hawk" (2013) and "The Front Bottoms" (2011) as well as that of last year's "Rose" EP. It is their fifth full-length since their inception in 2007, and on here you feel that the band's universe has brightened up and gotten a little less emo, while they have grown comfortable enough in their sound to start spicing it up with extra details here and there.

Mainly though, The Front Bottoms still stand for a semi-acoustic pop-punk songwriter style, highly reminiscent of Modern Baseball, yet also not unlike a less produced version of bands such as Motion City Soundtrack or Weatherbox. The separate instrumental elements are kept quite simple, with chord-based progressions holding up the mainstay of the music, played on both acoustic and electric guitar, yet always kept at a very down-to-earth level. Vocally, frontman Steven "Brian" Sella is back at it with his intentionally broken-sounding delivery which quickly lets you know that this is a very lyrically driven band.

As mentioned though, things have gotten less bleak, with less lines about hitting one's dad with a baseball bat or enjoying the "comfort in the bottom of a swimming pool". Not that there's not some grime in the lyrical reflections, but the sound and mood is lighter overall, courtesy of more summery guitar melodies and added flairs of keyboards brightening up the experience. Meanwhile the choruses have arguably been framed more tightly, as most of the songs quickly let you realise what their hook is. And these hooks are solid, easily making you feel like you will recognise them for years to come - even if it's a better question whether they're quite strong enough for you to actively seek them out after the first handful of listens.

The most interesting moment on the record is arguably during "Historic Cemetery", which builds to a thoughtful climax before settling down to a surprise rap-part, which actually works quite well and makes the song stand out. "2YL" also makes an instant impression with its opening sex lyrics - "With you on top of me, and me underneath you, I bet we'll go 100 miles an hour, through the ceiling" - and its overall carelessly happy attitude. "HELP" is indicative of the typical, stupidly catchy hook that holds up the album, making you sing "Help, you need a means to an ending, I need a spiritual cleansing" even before you really know what the song is about.

Overall though, "Back On Top" is the kind of record which has sort of a ceiling to it that it presses right up against, simply because The Front Bottoms' musical style is so basic. Even with rapping, sampled motorcycle sounds and other shenanigans, you aren't sufficiently distracted to forget that there's hardly any instrumental moments that make you raise an eyebrow. It is clear that it is the band's lyrics that are meant to bring the songs all the way home, and the slightly careless and chorus-centric mood found on "Back On Top" does not promise quite as much depth as some of the darker cuts from the band's previous albums. What you get is a quirky, catchy and fun listen, yet not the strongest candidate to pop up in a line-up of the most impressive albums you will have heard come the end of the year.


Download: 2YL, Historic Cemetery, HELP
For The Fans Of: Modern Baseball, Weatherbox, Motion City Soundtrack, Andrew Jackson Jihad

Release date 18.09.2015
Fueled By Ramen

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