Review Summary: Floridian pop-punkers roar back into action with sixth album.
The sticker on the front of New Found Glory
's latest release exclaims, "The undisputed heavyweight champions of pop-punk are back!” That is quite a statement, but after listening to the Florida quintet's sixth studio release, you can see good reason for it.
You see, when it comes to "good old pop-punk", there a few acts that have the niche of delivering pop sensibility into a sound that stays true to punk’s roots, quite as competently as NFG
. The band are celebrating the 10 year anniversary of the release of their debut album Nothing Gold Can Stay
, after emerging during the second wave of the movement back in the late 90s. They are one of a few bands still going strong today and while their mainstream appeal may have waned (much like the genre's), their ability to pen a rockin' number most certainly has not.
Their last full-length offering marked a step in a new direction for the five-piece. Employing a departure from their exuberant punk energy, and instead opting for a change of pace with the relaxed and melodic Coming Home
. This drew praise from many critics as their most mature material to date. So, is Not Without a Fight
further progression" Well, yes and no. Musically, the band is arguably tighter than ever. Taking all the best attributes from their back catalogue - the full throttle energy of their earlier releases, the emotive melody of ’Home
, and the hardcore influence from EP, Tip of the Iceberg
. While from a songwriting perspective (albeit still matured), it doesn’t deliver quite as their earnest and affecting ‘Home
managed to. NWAF
deals with the subsequent divorces and bitterness of those failed relationships that were previously embraced on ‘Home
. So while the topics covered are nothing new, Steve Klein remains a simplistic yet effective songwriter. He doesn't over do things by trying to be clever with his lyrics. His songs never feel contrived, even during the odd moments of sluggishness.
Mark Hoppus (Blink-182, Plus 44) has done a commendable job with production duties. While it certainly isn't as raw as their classic debut a decade ago, it is not over-produced. The sound is of what a good rock record should be, gritty but pure. Gang chants, frantic guitars, driving bass lines, and tight drumming are the order of the day throughout the 36 minutes. Crucially, they manage to tow the fine line of rocking hard enough, whilst still remaining extremely catchy. Opener, “Right Where We Left Off” is one of the finest examples the record has to offer. Its subtle rhythmic twists and pounding riffs perfectly compliment Jordan Pundik’s ever-improving vocal delivery. "Tangled Up", "Reasons", and "Heartless At Best" all share a greater emphasis on driving melodies, qualities found throughout their previous studio effort. This only further showcases their improved writing capacity over the years. "I'll Never Love Again" and "Such a Mess" include strong hardcore influences that bear strong resemblance to last year’s Tip of the Iceberg
. Both include chugging guitar riffs and manic drums. The latter proves a personal highlight with its hard and fast intro which precedes the anthemic chorus. The breakdown is also one of best the record has to offer, and displays the perfect example of how to execute a quality melodic hardcore tune. Another standout is the instantly memorable "Truck Stop Blues"; this is a fast and frantic homage to punk rock. The brilliant chorus will get lodged into your brain and remain there for hours. Clocking in at just 2:16, I'm sure this would please fans of the band's earlier work.
Despite being impressive overall, the record isn't without faults. Particularly during early album tracks "Don't Let Her Pull You Down" and "Listen To Your Friends". By no means bad tracks, lyrically though, they fall a bit short with the choruses coming across as lazy. That said, they are still enjoyable songs. Which perhaps underlines the band’s overwhelming ability; even in sloppy moments, their stomping melodies never cease to please the ear. Indeed, "47” is delivered with some tongue-in-cheek lines, but its middle section contains some great hardcore riffage and rhythmic backbone.
As a whole, the album maintains a cohesive and recognisable sound throughout. It also manages enough variety to avoid being "pop punk by the numbers". The blend of straight up energy, urgent melodic hardcore and the more at-ease-rock combine nicely to compliment the bands career thus far. While neither perfect nor a ground breaking record, it proves a damn good one. New Found Glory aren't a band who are going to change the face of music. But they remain, as ever, the same band with the same integrity they had back in 1997. The five-some continue to produce great music that's made them pioneers of their scene, so long may it continue.