Review Summary: I Let Myself Down Again
Veteran Midwest-based pop-punkers Real Friends return with their second E.P. with new vocalist Cody Muraro and yet again find themselves just on the cusp of greatness yet not quite reaching the heights of some of their contemporaries. Once considered the most depressed band in the pop-punk scene, Real Friends have branched out lyrically in more lovelorn and bitter territory mostly focused on failed relationships, poor communication and other ‘love’ related toxicity. While certainly not a complete reinvention in purpose, Real Friends have decidedly matured past feeling sorry for themselves and now feel sorry for themselves in different ways.
Instrumentally, this band has always had a standard approach to songwriting with some songs coming closer to hardcore and some songs being conventional piano/acoustic ballads. With this E.P, wouldn’t you know it, we get more of the same with most of the songs merging those edgy pop-punk rhythms with an acoustic bridge or slower interlude to break up the monotony. However, in the process of breaking up said monotony, Real Friends create their own tedium where every song follows the same patterns and flow therefore completely nullifying the effort to create dynamics. Even with this failure, the band still manages to create fun, bouncy tunes that are fairly pleasing to the ear even if just surface level in their compositional prowess.
The long-released single “Tell Me You’re Sorry” is a stellar smash hit and an excellent opener with a massive hook in the chorus and simple yet effective verses that build up the drama and intensify with the eagerness of the band to reach that sweet climax of a chorus. Unfortunately, the band fails to recreate the success and potency of that initial song. While songs like “Six Feet”, “The Damage is Done” and “I’m Not Ready” have earworm potential, they’re not quite the level of hype that the opening track is. The acoustic renditions on the backend of the EP are lovely little extra even if they feel more like space filler rather than genuine efforts at re-modeling those songs.
Overall, I feel this E.P. does very little in advancing this band forward past just a name in the pop punk scene. Muraro as a vocalist is very competent but feels like a face in the crowd without much to differentiate himself from other pop-punk vocalists. He has a very lovely softer timbre yet opts to shout most of the time, which is a shame, but I understand to a certain extent considering their previous vocalist Dan Lambton was known for that style of delivery. Not alienating a fanbase is crucial for a smaller band but I would love to see Muraro breakout into his own identity and establish a more distinguished sound and personality rather than the pretty-faced new guy. I did enjoy this E.P. as a surface level, mindless pop listening experience but as substantial art, it falls short of delivering a balanced an interesting album.