Tonight Alive’s new album may split opinion, but it could take them higher than ever before.
Label: Easy Life / Sony Red
Released: 4th March 2016
Vegemite. That’s what the new album by Tonight Alive is. Sure to split opinion wherever it goes, our Antipodean chums are ploughing their own unique furrow now. Take it or leave it, with them or against them, you’re going to have Big Opinions regardless.
‘Limitless’ isn’t treading the safe path. Between 2013’s ‘The Other Side’ and now, Tonight Alive are transformed. Where the easy money was in sticking to a template, 90s pop, with its shimmering vistas and soaring posi-vibes are the order of the day.
That’s where the split begins. Almost aggressively uplifting, much of ‘Limitless’ will fall either side of a very sharp barbed wire fence. Depending on how cynical you are, much of the album could be an empowering statement, or one Minion short of a motivational image your Mum might share on Facebook. Just so we’re clear; the cynics have it all wrong.
In breaking their mould – and that of everyone around them – Tonight Alive are being braver than their peers. While they could have moved with the pack and picked up the casual plaudits that come to any band growing their fanbase record by record, they’ve done what any artist should; been true to themselves. That’s exactly what tips ‘Limitless’ from being an interesting but divisive experiment to a Really Very Good album. Once onboard, it’s a record of big ambitions and vast horizons.
Opener ‘To Be Free’, with its initial salvo of Auto-Tuned robot vocals, might be there to ease the listener into this brave new world, but follow-up ‘Oxygen’ is like a cold ice bath. “Just let me breathe my oxygen,” sings Jenna McDougall over an sparkling ocean of mid-tempo pop rock. How you take lines like that will likely drive your whole outlook on ‘Limitless’, but once embraced they’re positively glorious.
‘Drive’ packs the sort of bangers-and-mash brilliance of No Doubt at the height of their powers, while ‘How Does It Feel’ and ‘I Defy’ firmly kick into fifth gear, reminding everyone that Tonight Alive can still mix it if they need to.
Lazily labelled MOR with hollow sentiment, or heartfelt rock that isn’t scared to go to places others won’t – it’s all a matter of positivity and perspective. In rejecting the opportunity to live in the shadows of others, one thing is for sure; Tonight Alive set their own limits now. Stephen Ackroyd