Review Summary: Real Friends succeed in putting themselves back together...kinda.
“Maybe This Place is The Same and We’re Just Changing” is the start of Real Friends crafting their own sound; if you've heard their previous EP’s you’ll no doubt recall a band who couldn't really decide if they wanted to be The Wonder Years, The Story So Far or The Starting Line. While it was obvious that Real Friends had some potential, too often it seemed as though they were either content to be ‘just another pop-punk band’ or suffering a major identity crisis. Their debut album helps to correct some of these flaws; the first thing you’ll notice is that instead of simply name dropping mid-90’s Midwest bands like American Football and Jimmy Eat World, Real Friends have taken a page from their book and started to slow down, embracing mid-tempo song writing and moving past their not so much generic, but definitely limited, repertoire.
The restraint found on “Maybe This Place…” is a welcome addition, allowing Dan Lambton to really explore his vocal range without having to constantly push himself over the rest of the band. Each of the band members gets more time to shine, proving beneficial. “Spread Me All Over Illinois” is the most interesting song they've ever written; the song transitions between standard fast-paced pop-punk only to slow down into more ambient territory before a brief return to the original pacing finally fading out with a single distorted riff repeating under Lambton’s final lyrics. This understanding of song dynamics isn't entirely new to Real Friends, but now they actually know how to use it; they've managed to avoid the structural issues found on “Put Yourself Back Together”, instead they've tried their hand at a number of different methods and while they don’t always work, most of them do.
It’s not all great news though; while the band has gotten better they’re still The Wonder Years lite. The main difference being that Real Friends lacks the satirical, tongue-in-cheek quality within their lyrics; sometimes their suburban white guy problems can be a little overbearing, especially when it seems they’re somewhat unaware of just how melodramatic they can be. Nonetheless they have improved somewhat, you’ll find no bony knees or sleepy eyes here, more than anything “Maybe This Place…” works as a collection of catchy pop-punk tunes, it’s quite easy to digest though there’s certainly enough under the surface to warrant repeated listens. Lyrical woes aside, Real Friends have succeeded in creating a debut album, it isn't perfect, though it has started the move away from simply aping the more popular bands within the genre and instead sees the band coming into their own.