Review Summary: Magnum opus? No. High art? No. Really good emo-tinged pop-punk? Yup.
Sophisticated would be a weird word to describe a pop-punk album, much less a pop-punk album with track names like “*Equip Sunglasses*”, “Feal Like Crab”, and “Dirty Office Bongos”. Sophistication seems even less likely when the closing track begins with the lyrics “You've got a type/Pasty skin and dead inside/Oh, and green eyes/Yeah, ones that look just like mine”
. In fact, on the surface, all signs for Hot Mulligan’s new album point towards an aspect of pop-punk that largely disappeared in the mid-2000s, one of pseudo-intelligence and a gross reach for sophistication, the idea that being sad makes a person interesting in-and-of itself. And there is no denying that Hot Mulligan holds many of the postmarks of typical post-punk: Sad lyrics that get almost uncomfortably too personal, the questioning of why other people “just don’t get it”, broken hearts, and vocalists that border between singing and high-pitched nasal squeals. If someone didn’t like the genre beforehand, you’ll be fine
isn’t the album that will change their mind.
No, you’ll be fine
doesn’t try to be sophisticated in a way that comes off try-hard and Hot Topic (although there are undoubtedly other Hot Topic influences here), they come off sophisticated in execution. Even if the lyrics are largely about depression and other types of anxieties, there is no doubt that a lot of thought and care was put into their work here. The production on the album is superb
. The obvious highlight is the guitar work, which is a perfect meshing of twinkly Midwest emo and pop-punk power chugging, in that it fits perfectly into the pop-punk atmosphere, but also goes many places that the genre itself normally wouldn’t. It shares a very clear resemblance with bands like Tiny Moving Parts, but has accessible song structures that resemble other more mainstream peers, but also takes more risks than many modern pop-punk bands, even those at the top of their game. With less than stellar production, which many bands of similar ilk unfortunately have, a lot of the intricacies the band have would have been completely lost within the mix, but instead each flair for the dramatic has its place.
Again, this isn’t to say that the band has completely changed the face of pop-punk - They haven’t. What they have instead done is mix the different aspects of the genre really successfully. There’s a bit of The Wonder Years in there, some My Chemical Romance, some Tiny Moving Parts, and even some electronic flourishes and choruses that wouldn’t sound out of place on some Forever the Sickest Kids cuts (how’s that for a throwback?). The passion of the dual vocalists is there as well, for better or for worse. There are times, particularly in opener “OG Blue Sky”, where screams and yells are utilized incredibly well, essentially being their own instrument. There are other times, where these screams become grating, used to emphasize every third word, thus losing any sort of power behind them. “BCKYRD”, perhaps the strongest song lyrically on the album, particularly suffers from this forced emotion. Additionally, even with its welcome intricacies, you’ll be fine
also can fall into the “sameiness” trap of many albums in the genre, especially since it seems that ten out of the eleven tracks are all in the same key. But again, Hot Mulligan weren’t trying to make some high-art, high concept magnum opus. They tried to make 31 minutes of super solid emo inspired pop-punk tracks, and you’ll be fine
undoubtedly succeeds in that goal.