Review Summary: Renee Phoenix creates a new band. This is generally regarded as a bad decision.
People make decisions. Life is full of them, be it from the breakfast meal we choose, to the people we choose to spend our life with. Music is much the same, picking a style, picking your influences and so on. Some bands make decisions to change, be it for a more commercial approach, or for a more interesting approach. Fit for Rivals, formed out of the ashes of The Explicits, is one of these decisions.
The style that made The Explicits catchy and interesting, the raw, catchy songs has been replaced with standardised pop-punk stylings and trappings of the mainstream. The vocals are less strong, the drums less complex and flamboyant. This may be because of the change in line-up between the two groups, but even Phoenix’s vocals have less grit to them, less of the quality that made them catchy and interesting on the first record.
What we’re left with is just another pop-punk record. The tracks are energetic, the guitar work strummed fast and neatly, the drums serving a purpose. A good example of this is Get With Me
, a song originally written under The Explicits moniker. The first version of the song, then titled Suffocate
is raw, the vocals strained, the riffs slightly off time, but under all this, it has personality, regardless of the bad lyrics. In the Fit for Rivals version of this song, these characteristics are gone. Phoenix isn’t as strong with her vocals, the riffs less interesting and the drums boring.
The lyrical side of the music is focussed on the staples of most pop-punk: Relationships, emotional strife, personal problems, which are all reasonable topics when given the right take, or creative ability. However, Fit For Rivals show no sign of pushing the barriers of this style, sticking to lyrics such as those found in Can't Live Without You
Wait, don't leave me here alone again
I can't make you believe
You're all I ever loved
But I guess that's not enough
This persistent cheesiness and lack of creativity drains the vibe of these lyrics, with Phoenix's distinct rough voice sounding not enjoying the words she is putting across, sound worn and tired. By the end of the record you are left feeling like you are about to explode if you hear one more instance of the word 'Hey' or Phoenix's repetitive vocal hooks that you will start breaking the nearest piece of expensive pottery.
The rhythm section is the saving grace of this record. The simplistic pop-punk riffs combined with regulation drums create a solid backing for the vocals. Whilst not particularly inventive, it is easy to get caught up in the light heart nature of the small solos and leads.
By no means is the production lacking, crisp tones, the modern touch is very clear hear, the bass barely audible like so many other modern rock records. Whilst this should be accepted, it feels like the album could gain from less focus on the overproduction and more on the musical content.
With the present amount of repetitiveness in the modern music scene, it may seem hard to be original and bring something new to the table. However, it is upsetting to see a good group sacrificed and replaced with a boring clone which uses vocal harmonies and musical ideas long worn thin. In the recording of their new album, Phoenix and Co. should consider their ideas much more carefully.