Review Summary: Tactlessly tacky tunes
The Front Bottoms make music that trips and stumbles. Their instrumentals typically stagger and wobble, laced with Brian Sella’s fumbling vocals leaking streams of consciousness – uninhibited tales of bludgeoning fathers, afternoon piss-ups and swimming-pool-escapism aplenty. The resultantly awkward, uneasy aesthetic has been a constant throughout the band’s work, the stubborn charm underlying all of its stylistic iterations. It’s this ‘human’ spark that makes their silly, sappy projects work, and thankfully it finds its way into Going Grey
Although this TFB
keystone is maintained, things aren’t quite as sporadic this time around. Whilst still a peppy pop(-punk) project, it’s a more mature and grounded effort. Softer textures dominate, following ‘Back on Top’ in replacing the clanging acoustic twangs of their earlier works with smoother electric tones and cutesy, bobbing keys (see: ‘Trampoline’). Whilst consequently not as energetic as its older counterparts, the record is as characterful as ever and pleasantly laid back. Case in point, the warm ‘Don’t Fill Up On Chips’ practically begs the listener to crack open a beer, pull up a chair and take a breather. ‘Bae’ similarly sways before sliding into the raucous chorus with a hook that promises to stick around in the listener’s mind for days. ‘Vacation Town’ follows suit, reminiscing about a better time as horns swell over reserved acoustic passages, a soft pulse beating beneath the surface.
The prevalent dreamy vibe is quite the departure from the band’s frantic s/t days, yet the quirky TPB
‘spark’ is still kept alight. Fervent cut ‘Far Drive’ switches things up with pizzazz and bravado, a driving drumbeat and optimistic guitars bursting through the previously cushy veneer. Characteristically zany lyrical nuggets are also found scattered across the project; “Holy ***, I’m about to die” in particular is utterly TFB
, lazily drawled out in the opening track as the instrumental bleeds synthetic rainbows. It’s one of many borderline cringey moments on the record, but it’s hard not to smile when each oozes the off-kilter personality of the band that fans have come to love.
In the end, Going Grey
leaves me scratching my head a little. In quite an oxymoronic fashion, it’s both as far from and as close to their roots as they’ve ever been, aesthetically worlds apart but tethered tightly to them in spirit. At times it can feel a little tacky and a tad too derivative, and admittedly I still can’t help but miss their manic ‘s/t’ days, but at its core this is a welcome addition to TFB's
catalogue. It’s simply a couple of mates playing some chill tunes and being themselves, which is neat.