Review Summary: wait, stay young and invincible
Depending on your musical constitution the words 'going pop' inspire either a feeling of creeping, gnawing dread at the state of the music industry, or the warm glow of satisfaction at winning over another one. If you're still angry over Emarosa ditching post-hardcore, there were countless stations to hop off this train and go listen to whatever the hell band Jonny Craig's in now; for the rest of us, Peach Club
comes as an unsurprising full pivot into the direction they've been leaning since 2014. It's one part good M83 album and one part bad M83 album with a healthy mix of 80s gloss-rock in the mix, and it makes no bones about it, arriving in your ears with some crystal clear funk guitar and a fucking sax solo.
Bradley Walden remains Emarosa's best asset, a soul singer fronting a post-hardcore band who changed the music to suit him rather than compromising the other way 'round. Peach Club
makes a case for him as the best scene singer since Anberlin's Stephen Christian, with a fantastic range and ear for melody disguising a fascinatingly vulnerable and honest songwriter, unafraid to push beyond the clichés of his field. Okay, so this is a relentlessly upbeat album for a time and scene that desperately needs one, best exemplified by the feel-good boyband vibes of "Get Back Up" and "Help You Out". That doesn't mean Walden has abandoned his proclivity for touching moments, as exemplified by the highlights of the incredible 131
: the "Sure"/"Miracle" duo which delved into a couple's grief over losing a child through wailing R&B, the openhearted anguish of the devastating "Porcelain". There's nothing as dramatic or ambitious as the above on Peach Club
, which might be for the best. This is an album concerned with stimulating as many of your senses as possible in a short amount of time, shamelessly chasing the surface-level pleasures: the unfairly good chorus in "Cautious", a ridiculously funky guitar lick where the old Emarosa would have placed a winding noodly lead, the aforementioned sax solo and other instrumental embellishments. Easily the biggest departure is "xo", which strips back to just a bluesy electric guitar and vocal and sets the stage for a diverse run of highlights - propulsive banger "Hell of It" into "Comfortable"'s sultry R&B into the dreamy Hurry Up, We're Dreaming
throwback "IW2DWY". "Wait, Stay" has the high benchmark of Emarosa 2.0 closers to reach, which it effortlessly does - a gorgeous guitar lick from ER White, the only remaining member from Emarosa's long-faded metalcore days, establishes a hazy night drive vibe which invites Walden to stay in his quieter range, a welcome continuation of the peaceful vibe established on the Copeland-inspired Reimagined
Once upon a time I thought, like many others, that the loss of a talented vocalist would cripple the career of this scene-beholden, occasionally great band. It's eight years later and I'm giving their 80s pop rebirth seven hundred words, so that obviously wasn't the case, owing to the second wrong assumption I and others made: that Emarosa would only make musical strides forward in conjunction with a lineup overhaul. Of course Bradley Walden transformed the band with his arrival, if not instantly then certainly beginning with Versus Reimagined
. Then the departure of three original members came just before the revitalised and refreshing 131
, where the band shed off the carcass of post-hardcore entirely and embraced their soulful leanings. But give or take a keyboardist, that exact same band made Peach Club
, proof once and for all that Emarosa just has a thing for fucking with the formula. Coming from a band who started by releasing albums with ten/twelve variations on the Swancore template, right now I have no idea if the next Emarosa album will sound like Circa Survive or Grimes. God knows I'm in for the ride 'till I find out.