5 Seconds of Summer – Self-titled
Record Label: Capitol
Release Date: June 17 2014 (UK) July 22 2014 (US)
Australian pop-punk/pop-rock outfit 5 Seconds of Summer is a rather fascinating group, because there is so much that can be discussed when talking about them. A lot of people have been calling this band a boy band, similar to One Direction, because that’s who discovered them, and honestly, they aren’t too far off. The thing is, this band just plays their own instruments. Heck, they’re on the cover of Alternative Press magazine for this month. They certainly aren’t a “boy band” if they’re on the cover of a magazine like that, where most of its readers, aged 12 – 20, aren’t into boy bands or even pop music itself. Others have made the claim for or against that 5SOS are a pop-punk band, in the vein of Blink-182, New Found Glory, Real Friends, The Story So Far, etc, etc. While I can say they’re not technically a boy band, they’re not really pop-punk, either. And that’s not the pop-punk purist in me saying that because they’re popular or whatever. They just don’t come off as a pop-punk band in that vein. One could argue, however, that they’re a pop-punk-that’s-more-pop-than-punk, meaning bands like We Are the In Crowd, All Time Low, and other bands who play a combination of pop-punk and pop-rock. Calling 5SOS a pop-punk band is a bit strange to me, only in the sense that they aren’t the kind of band that could carry the torch of the genre. They don’t really fit in with the kind of pop-punk that I really enjoy, along with many other people. They could be a good band to get into if you’re new to pop-punk, or want a “gateway” band, but these guys really aren’t the kind of pop-punk that most people are used to.
Regardless of what you think about this band, one thing is for sure: they’re getting harder to ignore. Ignoring them simply will not help anymore. For awhile, I saw the group’s debut self-titled EP, and simply ignored it. I listened to the track “She Looks So Perfect,” and I shouldn’t have watched the video while listening to it. I didn’t like the video at all, but the song wasn’t half bad. The lyrics were kind of cringe-worthy, especially the chorus, but the songwriting wasn’t half bad, and the hook was still great. It’s a very catchy tune, but at the same time, I wasn’t that interested in listening to the rest of the EP. I knew the band had an album coming out, but I wasn’t too sure I wanted to hear that, either. Well, I’m obviously writing about the band’s self-titled debut album now, so I’ve certainly given it a few listens. After releasing an EP just a few months ago, you’d think they’d wait a bit longer to release an album, right? Well, music is a business at the same time, and with the internet making it easier for people to move onto new stuff in the blink of an eye, it makes sense from a business standpoint. And it helps that, at this point, the band is getting really hard to ignore. I finally thought I’d buy a copy to listen to, and see what I thought about it. Is this band really worth the hype that they’re building up for themselves, or are they just a band that only pre-teen girls are going nuts for?
Well, it’s sort of both, and that’s a rather odd thing to say. The hype surrounding them is somewhat justified, but at the same time, this is a band that pre-teen/teenage girls will eat up. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I’d be lying if I said that I can’t see why their fans are a very specific demographic. This is a very fascinating LP, since there are some things that I really enjoy in it, but also some things that I don’t. What works is pretty simple – the instrumentation and vocals. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nothing mindblowing or revolutionary. Don’t go into this album thinking you’ll get a Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club by The Beatles, because you’re just silly if you have expectations that high. Granted, there is nothing wrong with having expectations going into a record, but if you have an idea of what to expect, you shouldn’t be surprised when it’s not as great as you wanted it to be. I will say, however, that if you just have fun with this LP and understand that these guys are in their late teens/early 20s and they’re a pop-rock band targeted to teenage girl, you’ll most likely enjoy it a lot more.
Regardless, the instrumentation on this LP is still quite impressive, especially in certain moments. Maybe it’s more so the songwriting, but even so, the way the sounds are constructed and the instrumentation as a whole is really nice. Songs like “She Looks So Perfect,” “Good Girls,” and “End Up Here” have great hooks and catchy melodies. It’s surprising to me, especially because I never thought that some “boy band with guitars” would be able to produce such catchy tunes. A majority of the songs on this LP are insanely catchy, and well done pop-punk. It’s pretty straightforward, but instrumentally, it’s really nice. Even the vocals are quite interesting, too; all four members sing, including lead vocalist/guitarist Luke Hemmings, guitarist Michael Clifford, bassist Calum Hood, and drummer Ashton Irwin. Hemmings takes most of the vocals, but when the other members come into play, they can sing quite well, too. The only problem is that I can’t exactly distinguish each of them apart, but they do have nice voices. I’m not appalled by any of them, and none of them are better than the other (Blink-182, anyone? I seriously cannot stand Tom DeLonge’s vocals. I don’t mind whiny vocals, but he’s just too whiny for my tastes).
Even though the instrumentation and vocals are quite nice on this LP, my biggest problem is the one thing I haven’t mentioned yet – the lyrics. The instrumentation on this record is up to par with bands they cite as influences, such as All Time Low and Boys Like Girls (the latter of which I enjoy a nice amount), having a nice pop-rock sound, albeit nothing too revolutionary or unique. It’s just done very well. But what makes those bands work are their lyrics. Sure, they’re nothing all that great, either, but they’re a lot more “mature” than compared to this band. And while I don’t usually let lyrics bother me, there’s a reason why their fanbase is comprised of teenage girls, and it’s not only their boyish good looks. It’s their lyrics that pander directly to them. Songs like “She Looks So Perfect,” “Good Girls,” and “Kiss Me Kiss Me” really showcase this. A lot of the songs on this LP do focus on relationships and girls, but it’s nothing more than your average ideas and subject matter. The lyrics aren’t truly bad, but there are a few moments where I cringe every time I hear it. For instance, the two that stand out most to me are on “She Looks So Perfect,” where the chorus says, “She looks so perfect standing there / In my American Apparel underwear,” and “Heartbreak Girl,” that describes the bands’ affinity for a girl who keeps dating terrible guys, “And when the phone call finally ends /
You say, “I’ll call you tomorrow at 10” / And I’m stuck in the friend zone again and again.” Those are really stupid lyrics and every time I hear them, I just cringe.
There aren’t too many more moments like that, but as a whole, the lyrics are just okay. There’s nothing really bad about them, but nothing really good, either. They just exist, and their fans will eat them up just fine. There are two tracks that I loved lyrically, however, those two tracks being “Beside You,” and “Amnesia.” These two tracks feel the most “adult,” and honestly, if the whole LP was full of these lyrics, I could get into this album much more. The former song is about a long distance relationship, the clichéd “I’m on tour, but you’re at home” song, but for what it is, it’s done quite well. The same goes for album closer, “Amnesia,” the only breakup song on the LP and the only acoustic song. Both objectives hit their marks very well, as the lyrics are quite mature and realistic. It’s a great ending track, and easily one of the two highlights on the LP. Sadly, though, having only two highlights doesn’t mean I’m absolutely in love with this LP. I certainly do enjoy it a nice amount, but its problems are quite apparent. It’s nothing too original, which isn’t bad all in itself, but the songs do have a formula to them, and it can get kinda stale after awhile, and the lyrics are nothing remarkable, either. The instrumentation and catchy choruses are what really keep this album afloat for me. It’s a good album to play in, well, the summer. It’s just a catchy pop-rock album that’s definitely worth a few listens, whether or not you fit the demographic for it.
Favorite tracks: “Amnesia” & “Beside You”
RIYL: All Time Low – So Wrong, It’s Right, Boys Like Girls – Self-titled, & The Maine – Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop
Overall rating: 7.5/10