“When you’ve got bigger plans that no one else understands, you’ve got a shot, though.”
5 Seconds of Summer are exactly what no one understands, and the release of sophomore record Sounds Good Feels Good is their shot to show that they’ve grown up and can provide more than a catchy radio hit about underwear.
The album has a tricky way to kick off with some fun before diving into what the band’s got to say, and the concept of the album. “Money” is a banger of a song that hits you right in the face with blasting energy of heavy guitars and gang-vocals. Singles “She’s Kinda Hot” and “Hey Everybody” keep this up with playful sound effects and guitar riffs, channeling My Chemical Romance and Duran Duran, while also hinting on upcoming topics of the New Broken Scene (a concept, the band would like people to get behind and feel like they belong to somewhere).
“Permanent Vacation” riots against the system that throttles the individual (“The voices coming through the speaker/they can’t make me a believer”) – using all the words from the dictionary that ends with –tion, probably. It’s the point where the serious matters surface, such as depression and mental health. The marching drum phase at the bridge just makes the rebellious feelings stronger.
“Jet Black Heart” (or Jack Black Heart, as I like to call it) must be the darkest and most emo thing a supposed boyband has ever done. Lyrics like, “I write with a poison pen – the blood in my veins is made off of mistakes – dive in to the dark as we burst into colour and return into life,” make me have vividly dark visuals about a complicated relationship. I love it when that happens.
The middle section of the album is my favourite at the moment. “Catch Fire” is the sad song that is also optimistic and has this incredibly catchy riff flowing through, which still makes it up-tempo. I’ve got a jet black heart and am colder than my demons but I may have cried – a little. Luke Hemmings killing it on vocals; this is his song.
It’s not a usual thing for the drummer to get a solo regularly (I can only recall with Don Broco doing the same these days) but Ashton Irwin is smashing it on both vocals and drums during the second verse of “Safety Pin.” The chorus here also paints the logo of the New Broken Scene (“We safety pin the pieces of our broken hearts back together”). The key changes in this one might be my favourites since Kids In Glass Houses’ “Peace,”
Where the real surprise kicks in is “Waste The Night.” This song has a day-dreamy vibe, almost like some Echosmith songs, yet it’s still heavily guitar driven, especially by the bridge. It sounds so unique in its own way that it’s really hard to describe – I love how the verses are phrased on the vocals, so it must be that. And, THERE IS AN INTERLUDE at the end, leading up to “Vapor!” Wow! Thank you for this, John Feldmann, king of concept records.
I’m really disappointed “Castaway” hasn’t become a single so far, and I doubt it ever will (sad-time is a more likely tendency after two fun singles). It has this powerpop radio anthem potential. A guest rapper appearance and super fancy tuning cars in the music video have even gone through my mind. Cheesy thoughts aside, it’s a great song about being dumped and feeling lonely.
Venturing onto different waters, the ballad of “The Girl Who Cried Wolf” has all of Michael Clifford’s emotions poured into the lines of, “Look at me in the eye/is anyone there at all?” Musically, it sounds the most beautiful out of all thanks to the contribution of the London Symphonic Orchestra on the strings. “Broken Home” tells the story of a family where the parents struggle to keep their relationship together, from the point of view of the child who cries for help. This one has orchestral parts, also, but the smooth strumming on the guitar and the piano is what makes the track more dramatic – even for people who can’t directly relate to it – it’s a powerful track.
“Fly Away” lifts the dark mood that’s settled at the end of the album a little. I’m always having a hard time to hear the bass line, but that is exactly my favourite here – it sounds more significant than elsewhere. This song is what would be if Simple Plan and McFly had a lovechild. Calum Hood’s vocals have always reminded me of Tom Fletcher’s, so I feel like everything has come full-circle. Speaking of Calum, he slayed singing “Invisible” – a song about getting to know yourself while also feeling like you don’t exist to others. “Who am I? Invisible” I can relate to that. I have this picture in mind where the person is writing a goodbye letter on a typewriter as he’s slowly fading away…
I’ve read an interview somewhere describing “Airplanes” as an Irish drinking song because it’s in 6/8 timing. Its chorus really is something I can imagine randomly bursting out when in lifted spirits, so it totally works for me. Let’s go on a pub crawl 5SOS, will ya? – “San Francisco” follows this uplifting mood. It’s like a raw bonfire song played on the acoustic guitar.
Another interlude later, we arrive to the massive last song “Outer Space/Carry On.” “I was running from something” – “lost here in London” – these lines from the first part that is “Outer Space” remind me how much I want to run away from my boring town, back to lively London where I feel like I really belong. It’s so grandiose, though…it even has classic rock riffs. After a shooting interlude of ocean sound, “Carry On” gives the heads up for all broken souls. “You know it’s gonna get better.”
And it got better. This is 5SOS` first effort as grown ups and it sounds good and feels good. It’s clear they want to make a change, and I’m crossing my fingers they succeed in the long run. I first expected the concept of the New Broken Scene being brought out more, like naming the album that for example. However, it sounds The Black Parade-level serious and would’ve required an even heavier sound in hindsight. Maybe they’re not there yet, but imagine the faces of hard-core rock fans if that actually happened.
As of now, and to close the boring “Is 5SOS a rock band or boyband?”-debate once and for all, I say: This is not rock, this is not pop. Just another attempt to make the noises they love – as a band.