The Front Bottoms
Going Grey


2.5
average

Review

by Preston USER (14 Reviews)
November 15th, 2017 | 11 replies


Release Date: 2017 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Making an adventure out of mediocrity.

There’s a certain “it factor” that comes with the first few major releases from New Jersey group The Front Bottoms, and that’s always been a point of interest for many fans. The Front Bottoms’ early work succeeded because everything felt like it was hanging by a thread, like it could fall apart at any time. Frontman Brian Sella wasn’t the most technically proficient guitarist, and he sure as hell wasn’t the best vocalist, but it seemed like every chord he played and every word he sang had a magnetic, undeniable charisma to it. The songs stumbled, but the important part was they never fell on their face.

The Front Bottoms were doing something anyone can do, in a way no one else can.

On Going Grey, we see the group experiment with their sound by keeping the tracks more keyboard-centered, which unfortunately doesn’t mesh very well with Sella’s voice or writing style. Truth be told, I can’t blame them at all for wanting to switch things up. Even though the bare-bones approach worked wonders for them in the past, their last record Back On Top seemed to have found the ceiling to what they could do with that style. However, here we find ill-fitting keyboards and drum machines painting over what could possibly be decent folk-punk tunes. For example, the potential charm of “Trampoline” gets drowned out by puzzling keyboard choices and cheesy vocal distortions. This could have easily been a standout track on the album, if only the band stuck to the DIY approach to production they used to thrive in.

While it’s easy to see the potential of “Trampoline,” the same cannot be said about the bulk of this record. “Bae” and “Don’t Fill Up On Chips” are empty attempts to relive the wacky-love vibe of past songs like “Peach,” but what’s missing is Sella’s gripping engagement. As sappy as the track is, "Peach" worked because of how genuine Sella's vocal delivery was. Here, he sounds so well-removed from the tracks that it hinders on complete disinterest, especially concerning the chorus on “Bae.”

A surprising exception is the album’s penultimate track, “Everyone But You,” which manages to make itself work in this new direction. A steady, drudging beat pounds away under Sella’s simple, sing-along melody. Instead of coming off as a gimmick, the added keys give the song a retro feel by accompanying the song’s main vocal riff. While a decent amount of the record’s potential is squandered by this new direction, “Everyone But You” flourishes in its element, taking the listener to places only reachable in via the band’s new sound.

Sadly, the aforementioned track keeping its composure throughout its runtime is uncharacteristic to most of the record, which wastes time digressing into sappy diary entry-esque confessions. Gone are the sobering moments of the band’s tunes, moments of emotive clarity to give perspective of the push/pull relationship Sella’s brain has with itself. Instead of complementing Sella’s emotion like they usually would, sarcastic non-sequiturs take the place of emotion altogether. This barrage of non-sequiturs just manages to ruin the otherwise stellar lead single “Vacation Town.” Much in the vein of Back On Top’s highlight track “West Virginia,” this track takes us on a meandering musical adventure through Sella’s psyche. Impressively, it manages to feel well-detached from the style of the rest of the record, with all of TFB’s newfound bells and whistles orbiting around Sella’s acoustic guitar instead of replacing it. The main selling point is that Sella’s whimsy still manages to find its way onto the track in the shape of the song’s zany structure. Not too much chorus repetition, and just enough deviations to keep interest constant and to give a sense of progress. However, the song loses a considerable amount of steam in its second verse, which is completely structureless and derivative. And when the trap hi-hats tack themselves onto the last chorus, it drives the last nail in the song’s coffin.

As the band strays further from the musical style that best matched Sella’s songwriting, we see them veer farther away from what drew so many fans to their early work. While the quirky instrumentals of those records worked in unison with the band’s natural charisma, the odd instrumentals here seem to be doing their best to contradict and subdue that charisma. There is a constant battle between the group wanting to rekindle what made them special in the first place and wanting to branch out to new horizons, but if Going Grey proves anything, it's that those two things cannot coexist on the same record.



Recent reviews by this author
Motion City Soundtrack Even If It Kills MeGlocca Morra Just Married
Weezer Pacific DaydreamLCD Soundsystem American Dream
Kool A.D. WORD O.K.The Smith Street Band No One Gets Lost Anymore
user ratings (115)
2.9
good
other reviews of this album
While She Sleeps: [in the back] STAFF (3.5)
Tactlessly tacky tunes...



Comments:Add a Comment 
TumsFestival
November 15th 2017


2470 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

Where my night owls at

AsleepInTheBack
Staff Reviewer
November 15th 2017


7187 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great review, and interesting counterpoint to my write up. I guess I can just stomach their newer sound, and find that the quirks that made their s/t so amazing seep through to this one all the same, just in a very very different manner.



Couple of constructive points, if you'll consider them: You repeat "non-sequiturs" in consecutive sentences which reads a little jarringly, could try find a synonym. Similarly with the repetition of "charisma" in the last para.

GreyShadow
November 15th 2017


5440 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Fantastic review man.



I like Trampoline a lot and after a while I thought the keyboards meshed in well with everything.





GreyShadow
November 15th 2017


5440 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I have no idea what this band will do after this because I doubt they'll return to any older style and a record like this won't work twice for them. I hope they prove me wrong.

If anything, I've been going back to their pre-self titled catalog and it's a good time



AsleepInTheBack
Staff Reviewer
November 15th 2017


7187 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I've never gone that far back actually, any of it worth a go in particular?

And yeah for sure, no idea where they'll go next. I don't think they can go back to their s/t days, I don't think they have that in them anymore given their last 2 records. A more mature and nuanced variant of this style may win some people over though, provided they crank up the energy a little bit on some cuts.

BlushfulHippocrene
Staff Reviewer
November 15th 2017


3822 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Could not disagree more, Preston. In particular, I don't think your characterisation of the band's new sound ("the tracks [being] more keyboard-centered") is adequate: it seems to me less than half of the songs lean in this direction (those that do being 'Holy Fuck', 'Peace Sign', 'Grand Finale', and 'Trampoline'), although indeed most of the songs here have some kind of keyboard element, so perhaps I'm being a bit too pedantic. Moreover, while you lament the loss of "the push/pull relationship Sella’s brain has with itself", I think that exists here in spades (in particular in 'Vacation Town', 'Ocean', 'Grand Finale', 'Don't Fill Up On Chips' to name a few): throughout, he struggles with the pressures and responsibilities of wanting/needing to grow up, which I think as a theme is a lot better developed than were the themes on previous efforts. In fact, I think it's central to the album's sound itself. This is at once their densest and poppiest album (or most straight-forward, I suppose in terms of its blend of pop and rock elements). And I think there are some legitimately excellent lyrics on here: the "c'est la vie" verse on 'Don't Fill Up on Chips' springs to mind, as does 'Bae'. I'm in awe of how well 'Holy Fuck' sets up the album, too - its confusion and tangling is explored throughout the rest of Going Grey. I don't know, album just feels a lot more deliberate than past efforts.

That said, despite how much I disagree, this is still a very fine review. You're an excellent writer, and I'm in awe of how clear your expression is pretty much the whole way through. Definitely a good countertpoint to Ben's, as he mentioned. Keep it up, mate. (:

Digging: Corbin - Ghost With Skin

AsleepInTheBack
Staff Reviewer
November 15th 2017


7187 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Certainly agree with that blush. Maybe the lyricism isn't quite as overt and on the nose on this one, which can lead to the sensation that it is lacking when actually it's just a little more subtle and reserved. That could explain the diverging accounts I've seen on this. If one digs deeper, the same eccentricities (especially lyrical) boil to the surface as on their s/t imho.

TumsFestival
November 15th 2017


2470 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

Woah thanks for the feedback fellas



@Blush - I gotta say I've always liked how respectful you are even when you're in complete disagreement and thanks for the kind words on the review. I see what you mean with the characterization of the sound, I was more saying that the record in general has a keyboard-oriented focus, not that every song has that exact sound. As for lyrics, maybe it's because I've spent (probably much) less time with the record, but I can't make out a precise concept in most of the songs. While I found hints of what you were saying about being afraid of growing old, it all feels pretty surface-level to me, maybe because each song has so many loose-ends (non-sequiturs).



@Asleep - Lyrics here are certainly kept less overt, seems to me they're taking a page from AJJ's newer material of putting in references that only a few people who he knows personally will understand (a certain lyric here comes to mind - don't remember exactly but one where Brain wonders which name to call a girl). The same eccentricities from s/t may appear here, but I believe that those eccentricities were put to better use there than here. As for your constructive notes, can't think of many synonyms for "non-sequitur," but I think I know a way to combine those two sentences so I won't have to repeat the word. Also, if you want to go back to their pre-s/t days, I Hate My Friends is excellent and My Grandma vs. Pneumonia has some jams as well.

GreyShadow
November 16th 2017


5440 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

yeah, I can almost never remember any of the pre-s/t stuff but I always have a good time with it

TumsFestival
November 16th 2017


2470 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

I actually considered I Hate My Friends my favorite of theirs for a long time

sixdegrees
November 16th 2017


12462 Comments


the bottom fronts

Digging: Black Malachite - Cocks in my ass (extended overture in C Minor)



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2019 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy