The Front Bottoms’ ‘Going Grey’ trades lyrical depth for broader appeal

In Arts & Entertainment, Lifestyle
(Courtesy of Fueled by Ramen)

There’s a home for teary-eyed lovers and reminiscent delinquents alike in The Front Bottoms’ latest album “Going Grey.”

Since their first humble self-released album “I Hate My Friends” in 2008, founding members Mathew Uychich and frontman Brian Sella have maintained a familiar feel while expanding the band to four members.

The Front Bottoms has never been known for stunning rhythms or instrumentals, but what they lack in complexity they’ve made up with pure, raw emotion. The band’s early albums were intense, unprocessed outpourings of passion, confusion and camaraderie. So when longtime fans hear the poppy, overproduced first track “You Used To Say (Holy F–k),” they may be wary of the album right from the jump.

Thankfully, the opener isn’t wholly indicative of the rest of the release. While, The Front Bottoms continue to impress as they put their highs and lows on display with engaging wordplay and chord progressions, this release is on a more shallow level than usual.

A few songs on “Going Grey,” still feel like something is missing. Lyrically, Sella has traded in the long-winded, heartbreaking verses of past hits like “Twin Size Mattress” for repetitive song structures that go on a tad too long, like in the new track “Peace Sign.”

It may be easier to vocalize “So next time that she sees him, it’ll be peace sign, middle finger” than it is to sing “They cut your hair, sent you away. You stopped by my house the night you escaped. With tears in my eyes, I begged you to stay. You said ‘Hey man I love you, but no f–king way,” but the latter is far more genuine and sorely missed.

That being said, “Going Grey” isn’t inherently bad, just different. It’s less of a peek into the intimate back pages of diaries of their past records and more of a lighthearted call back to the days of being a flawed teenager. It’s the lyrical equivalent of being hit with a wave of nostalgia after spotting an old beach photo from high school.

On “Vacation Town,” the record’s second single, Sella longingly looks back on impromptu getaways with his lover as he sings “I miss the hours in the morning and you in the morning hours.” Driven by a snare on all four beats and a horn-filled bridge, this is easily the standout track of the album.

This more simplified formula found in the album definitely lends itself more to sentimental lyrics than intricate storytelling and on that front, the album excels. Each track retraces momentous formative memories like a late, mistake-filled night with friends, a tale of heartbreak or a touching love song.

Most of the simple melodies and catchy fun choruses are easy to get behind, but there’s a certain irony to it all. Four years ago on The Front Bottoms’ second full studio album “Talon of the Hawk,” Sella shouted with palpable conviction, “I avoid using traditional techniques” at the top of his lungs in “Lone Star.” The techniques he previously denounced seem to dominate his most recent work.

It may not be a return to form for The Front Bottoms, but “Going Grey” is at least comfortable. As the band approaches more radio-friendly tunes, listeners can take a brief, carefree trip home with the album to reminisce on simpler times of their own.

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