Australian pop-punkers 5 Seconds of Summer are back, with second LP ‘Sounds Good Feels Good’. The band have split opinions since they first rose to prominence in 2013 after supporting One Direction on their Take Me Home tour. Originally Youtube celebrities performing covers, the band started writing and releasing their own music, which is where the arguments begin.
Whilst they branded themselves as a pop-punk band, their initial releases lacked any sort of bite; they firmly sat on the pop side of the pop-punk fence. Their music even bore similarities to One Direction’s newer, more powerpop/rock inclined sound, sparking more arguments on whether they were really pop-punk. Their eponymous first album was received fairly well, although was generally accepted as a pop album.
Their new album however, certainly goes against this. Rather than going down the proven path with more pop-y sounding music, they have moved towards the punk end of the spectrum, sounding more like a late 90s – early 2000s pop-punk band in the vein of Sum 41, Good Charlotte or Bowling for Soup.
Lead single ‘She’s Kinda Hot’ sounds like it would be right at home in an American Pie movie or on a (Mc)Busted CD, and has a hook that is catchy without being too annoying. Second single ‘Hey Everybody!’ is also a success, with similarly (almost way too similarly) written verses and a really basic chorus that neither offends nor stimulates the senses too much.
They also show a few darker tones throughout the album. The fittingly-titled ‘Jet Black Heart’ isn’t as happy go-lucky as the previous four songs, showing some slightly rougher vocals, slower tempo and even darker lyrics. Even the chorus is noticeably more downbeat, although it still manages to somehow be as catchy as the rest of the album.
Token break-up ballad ‘Broken Home’ is about as generic as they come, but is executed well and provides a welcome break from the faster songs preceding it. Penultimate song ‘San Francisco’ may be the best song on the album; the band manage to create a fairly strong and genuine feeling of nostalgia that is easily one of the album’s highlights.
The problem with this album is actually mentioned by the band in the last song, ‘Outer Space’. In the bridge they speak of a contrast – “one foot in the golden life, one in the gutter”. This is like a microcosm for the bands’ influences and sound. They want to play the classic pop punk style of the bands they idolise, but also want to write the same ultra-catchy choruses, use the same glimmering-clean music production and play the same power chords. It’s a formula that has worked for them in the past and is guaranteed to work for them in the future when the One Direction fan base are looking for a sound to fill the hole left by the group’s split.
The band need to decide which direction they are going: do they stay with what’s been proven successful or do they go with what sounds and feels good for them?