Review Summary: Trophy Eyes craft a personal, consistent debut LP, even if they don't quite reach their full potential.
Trophy Eyes are a young band hailing from New South Wales, quietly riding this newfound wave of Brit/Aussie punk entering the minds and iPods of Americans. After a promising two-song demo, small changes and a staggering advancement in production led to one of my favorite releases of that year, 2013's Everything Goes Away. EGA was the culmination of the best that a few separate genres have to offer, combined into one: the aggression and passion of hardcore, the catchy melodies and crisp production of pop-punk, and the personal and likable lyrics of a singer-songwriter project. My head was in the clouds over this EP, and my expectations for their debut full-length skyrocketed. Well, it has finally arrived, and with that I am now realizing that maybe my expectations were ill-considered.
...Mend, Move On is still an excellent, cathartic album, and certainly exceeds proper expectations. Carried by solid instrumentation, and propelled by the superb lyrics and passionate vocals of singer John Floreani, Mend, Move On is riddled with memorable moments, and makes for a moderately powerful listen.
One of the biggest reasons I appreciate this album, and Trophy Eyes, is that they take the high road in regards to their music and melodies. There are a handful of easy, undeniably catchy progressions that plague pop-punk, and Trophy Eyes shy away from them with confidence, or give them plenty of nuance. This leaves a “grower” of an album, and as a longtime punk fan, this pleases me greatly. Everything isn't apparent from the first listen.
Another reason this album is a grower is the impressive lyricism hidden behind the passionate vocals. Floreani has a lot to get off his chest here, and the lyrics are brutally honest, yet poetic enough to transcribe the emotions to the listener. The guilt John feels towards how he treated his mother as a kid in 'In Return.'
“Mom, now that I've been in love myself,
I can't imagine how it felt
to be told that you could never love another man.”
Especially on what might be my favorite track, 'My Name On Paper', Floreani details the sadness and destruction that comes with Alzheimers.
“We had to say our goodbyes at the nursing home.
You didn’t know why you can’t come back with us.
I’ve never seen my mother cry so much.
And I watched grandpa visit you every day he could.”
It's the perfect imagery that makes the lyrics hit hard, and makes you think about those around you that could be dealing with these issues, like John. He has a knack for beautiful, personal imagery,
“But the one place I keep in my head
Is where the sun shines through your white curtains
And the breeze that lifts them off the wall and gently wakes me to the world
To an overwhelming familiar smell of home”
Songs about realizing it's the white lies of those who care about you that let you sleep at night, and how truly lucky John is to be alive and to have a place to come home to after being gone, there is plenty to reflect upon after listening to this album. Even the shame of not being able to afford to eat, the hardships are realistic and honest. And the passionate yells keep the energy high, and the honesty paramount. You can feel his spit hitting you while you listen.
Drum and bass are more than competent, no complaints there (Although no memorable moments per se). The guitars, however, are the highlight of the music. On tracks like “Convalescence” and “Family Name”, there are licks that might make Blink-182 jealous. They meld the best tendencies of old punk and new-age pop-punk to create a strong power-chord driven foundation, with aggressive melodies weaving in and out.
The album is obviously not without it's shortcomings. The dual-vocals that punctuated EGA as unique are far fewer, and often feel forced. The production, as I said, is a regression from the clarity of EGA. And it is up to you to decide if this is a flaw, but there are no clear standout tracks. Every track certainly has a redeemable quality about it, though. While most bands pack their best moments into half of the albums songs, Trophy Eyes spread them out, with something to keep you coming back to every song.
Trophy Eyes' honesty and originality in their music and lyrics make it very easy to want to root for them. It was too much of me to expect a masterstroke, but no hope is lost. If anything, I have more confidence that their next release will not be a miss. Trophy Eyes cement themselves as intelligent songwriters, and I respect the hell out of them.
My Name On Paper 4.5/5
Come Clean 3.5/5
Family Name 3.5/5
Responsibility and Structure 4/5
Best Man 3.5/5
In Return 3.5/5
White Curtains 4.5/5
Ugly Pattern 4/5
Penfold State Forest 4/5