Review Summary: No need for a spotter here.
Have you ever wondered what your brain experiences after it is flooded with endorphins following a massive benchpress or weight crush at the gym? Well, Bilmuri seems to have capsuled this feeling in the form of 400LB BACK SQUAT
, the followup release to an album I reviewed here before, EGGY POCKET
. Since first listening to EGGY POCKET
, I subsequently blasted Bilmuri’s entire discography and have since embraced the wacky and carefree attitude that he brings to music. These qualities bleed into his music in a way that makes the listener feel enveloped in the surreal nature of its creator and left eager for another taste.
Bilmuri is the brainchild of Johnny Franck, former member of post-hardcore band Attack Attack!, and has established a brand for himself that fully embraces the insanity and nonsensical nature of current internet trends, developing “deep fried” music videos, merch plugs, and Instagram content. However, while memes and humor are prevalent across this album, it does not take away from the craftsmanship of excellent music and hooks that could catch a great white shark with ease. The entire brand idea behind this project is gym culture and “huge gains”, which is obvious given the title of the album and track titles such as “ACOWBOYSHEAVYLOAD”, “JACKEDANDSTACKEDMASSMONSTER” AND “KEEPINITBEEFY”. This pokes fun at the trend of posting gym videos of massive weightlifting but in a way that creates an aura of positivity around the act of doing so, going so far as to request “sick personal record lift” videos from fans to include in music videos for tracks off this album. Bilmuri has a knack for making connections with his listeners, and has a great understanding of how to pull people in to his lovable nature.
While Bilmuri has never truly taken himself too seriously, refusing to pigeonhole himself as an artist into an image or brand, it is readily apparent that he takes the songwriting very seriously. Though he has never been the type to write overly-complicated epics or “change the game” lyrically or sonically, he has always been consistent with creating bite-sized moments of fun that never stay static in any genre or style. Slivers of current-day pop a la The Weeknd, synth and power metal elements, post-hardcore breakdowns, and even western twang solos all prevail, leaving the listener waiting to hear what is next. Hooks and lyrics are simple, yet infectious. Diverse and immaculate production. The features on this album are seamless and help diversify the songwriting even more, most notably a beautiful inclusion of Seneca on the track “lvl99ROIDMAGE”, a track that pulls you in with an atmospheric ballad, only to blow out with a heavy-hitting breakdown. Kaiyko’s feature on “ACOWBOYSHEAVYLOAD” is also a standout moment on the album as it goes from a hyper-pop chorus into a western twang solo. The album closes with “Relaxingboxfansleepambientsounds no.3”, which, in my opinion, is the strongest vocal performance across the whole album and shows Bilmuri’s ability to utilize his vocal range to its fullest.
A lyric that stands out to me on this album comes from the chorus of “KEEPINITBEEFY” (a track that includes a keytar solo and saxophone solo back to back for possibly the first time in human history):
I wanna let go for a second / I wanna know what it’s like to not be afraid”
This lyric to me perfectly encapsulates what I believe to be Bilmuri’s biggest strength: never shying away from taking a risk and giving someone a way to let go of stresses of the real world, even if for a short while. The entirety of 400LB BACK SQUAT
is an escape into the mind of a musician that is just like you and me: someone looking for a distraction from everyday issues and an environment of fun and frivolity. It is impossible to get through this project without holding onto the brief moments of excitement and wonderment at what comes next, never feeling comfortable sticking where you are, and soaking it all in.
Bilmuri has perfected the art of his own style, which is unlike any style I’ve heard from another artist. It is the product of a creative mind having a blast doing what he loves and showing that you can still have fun making music and connecting with people through it. His trend of releasing short, 20-30 minute albums works to his advantage because the albums never grow stale. You can start listening and then before you know it it’s over, but you know that he is working on the next one, just for you.
Next time you’re at the gym lifting stones and getting swole, this may be the record to push you to breaking your record lifts and making massive gains.