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Album Review

The Front Bottoms – Back On Top

The Front Bottoms - Back On Top

Enough massive moments to see The Front Bottoms propel their popularity even further.

Label: Fueled By Ramen
Released: 18th September 2015

Rating: ★★★★

Despite steadily picking up fans since the release of their self-titled album in 2011, The Front Bottoms’ recent signing to Fueled By Ramen that sees them becoming labelmates with the likes of Paramore, Panic! At The Disco and Twenty One Pilots means that there’s a real weight of expectation on the New Jersey indie-punks for the first time in their career.

But hey, they’ve bravely titled their first album on the label ‘Back On Top’, so it looks like they’re not too phased by it all. In fact, with the way they kick off ‘Motorcycle’, the record’s opener, with an almost obnoxious choral swell that gives way to five big, bold distorted chord strums – a far cry from their often minimalist acoustic stylings – it sounds like they’re having fun with that very idea.

That’s not to say that the entire record ends up being this huge, overplayed statement of intent, though, because what follows on that very same track is typical TFB fare, full of tongue-in-cheek self-deprecation and an impossibly catchy hook.

Instead, the band seem to have struck a seemingly perfect balance between ‘going bigger’ for the occasion – with their biggest and cleanest production to date marrying up with a surprising level of diversity (Run For Cover Records rapper, GDP’s intense guest verse on ‘Historic Cemetery’ is a curveball so unpredictable that it’d almost feel like a spoiler to write about it, if the song hadn’t been readily available for a while now) – and still retaining the simplistic, easy listening charm that got them this far.

The aforementioned ‘Historic Cemetery’ comes smack in the middle of a diverse three-song run that’s probably as good as anything the band have ever produced, too. ‘Laugh ‘Til I Cry’ is peak-Front Bottoms, with it’s hyper-introspective, wordy lyricism in the verses giving way to what’s sure to become one of the biggest singalongs in their live set in the chorus.

That’s followed up by ‘Historic Cemetery’ and its, “Just you and me, getting high and hanging out” refrain that’s made genuinely endearing by Brian Sella’s vocal, before ‘The Plan (Fuck Jobs)’ brings what basically amounts to a Built To Spill homage, from borrowing its title from the Idaho indie legends’ ‘Keep It Like A Secret’ opener to using their “When my mind is uncertain my body decides…” lyric from ‘In The Morning’ as the song’s bridge.

The album’s one questionable moment comes in the form of ‘2YL’, which might be just a little bit too sappy to take seriously, but it’s still catchy as hell and has an absolutely ridiculous horn section three quarters of the way through that makes any gripes with the rest of the song worth bearing. Bar that, this is TFB at their best and while they haven’t changed too much here, they’ve written songs with enough massive moments to see them propel their popularity even further. Ryan De Freitas