Review Summary: Reclaiming composure
I’ll be completely honest, I’ve always felt that Real Friends were just boring to listen to. Memes of bony knees and sleepy eyes aside, their songwriting only got more and more bland as time went on and as a band became ultimately unmemorable. Such is the curse of many a pop punk band. Not enough risks and creative anything to justify repeat listens, living and dying on the strength of their ability to write hook after hook. Keeping that in mind, Real Friends is a textbook example how not to make deep dents in the space they occupy. Up until The Home Inside My Head
, the band was becoming the very definition of average as the years went on.
Then, somewhere in that dark cloud of mediocrity, a lightbulb turns on.
Bassist and chief songwriter for Real Friends, Kyle Fasel, went on record to admit “We were not stoked on our last record.” “After recording, I immediately knew it wasn’t our best album. We learned a lot of lessons from that, one of which was that we needed to work on the catchiness of our songs. And that wasn’t us wanting people to like the songs more––we wanted to be better songwriters. Looking back on The Home Inside My Head, we really weren’t satisfied with it. It’s not a good representation of our capabilities.” Real Friends dedicated themselves to be better than they were, and heading back into the studio to create something that they themselves could truly be proud of. The process of doing so nearly killed the band, raising the stress levels to an all time high and bringing vocalist Dan Lambton’s mental problems to a head. “ “I was smoking constantly, and while I wasn’t binge-drinking, I was drinking a lot. At first, that can seem harmless, but it nearly developed into something really bad” Lambton confesses. So, the question now is, did all of this result in an album that towers over a discography of mediocrity?
wastes no time getting straight to the point, with “Me First” immediately presenting a refreshing change in both sound and focus. Sure, Real Friends still dumps the “sad, oh woe is me” lyrics all over the album, but there is a noticeably higher priority on the actual music itself and, more specifically, the catchiness. Dan begins with the line “I'm at best your second option, like a key under the mat” with large amounts of confidence in both himself and the melody, that it becomes apparent this first impression truly represents how much upper echelon the album is by Real Friends standards. More songs are dominated by restrained but powerful riffs than just straight power chords for three minutes. “Me First”, “Stand Steady”, and “Unconditional Love” create such different and unique atmospheres that they stand out above Real Friends entire discography, let alone Composure
. So much more thought was put into how the album flows and sounds this time around. It’s slightly hard to describe it under one umbrella term, but for me, I’d have to call Composure
’s sound and mood to be colorful. Just like the video for “From The Outside”, every song sounds more upbeat than usual, bringing a more youthful energy and awake feeling to the whole project.
As I said before, Real Friends' “down in the dumps but I might be getting better who knows” brand of lyricism is still put on full display. This time around, though, the stories and themes are a bit more varied than on previous efforts. It also helps that Real Friends decided to sit down and write actual big hooks for every song. The chorus in “From The Outside” is the definite standout, with Dan finally making full use of his vocal talent to create one of the catchiest songs this summer. “Stand Steady” and “Composure” are also worthy of mentions, as both find themselves with choruses that stick much more than they fall flat, which is especially impressive for Real Friends to pull off so effortlessly throughout the entire project. It feels like they really took a good long hard look at their past work and strived to make something better.
I’ll be the very first to admit that Real Friends are not the best hallmark of the pop-punk wave of the last 8 years or so. Composure
marks a new direction and fresher start for the band though. After years of being considered extremely average by both listeners in and outside the genre, sitting down and focusing on tighter songwriting and music is exactly what Real Friends needed. If they continue down this road, I can most definitely see the band becoming the torchbearer of the genre some fans have been toting them as over the years. All things considered, it sounds like the band is just getting started with this new invigoration and it’s a great feeling being able to be excited for new releases once again.