By Cameron Grieves
New Jersey indie-rock band, The Front Bottoms, released their fourth studio album “Going Grey” on Oct. 13.
The title is perhaps a bit too self-reflective, and not in the “brooding emo musician” type of way – in the “corporate sellouts who realize their act has gotten stale” type of way.
However, the band has developed formative critical success. Over the past 10 years, they have grown from a small post-grad musical project between childhood friends Brian Sella and Matthew Uychich, to the full-fledged indie-rock band they are today – with back-up vocalists to provide those invariable indie choral shouts of “hey!” to fill track time.
The true marker of indie success.
But that right there is emblematic of the major fault I have with this latest release – there simply is no room for their sound to breathe, and no space for truly emotive lyrics to resonate.
Sella’s vocals are delivered impassively against a minimalist electronic instrumental background that acts only to amplify the lack of a passionate buildup in lyrical content.
On the song, “Trampoline,” Sella’s distorted vocals compete with repetitive instrumentals that erratically shift in tone, creating a jarring sonic dissonance that falters, sputters and dies halfway through the track.
“Sometimes, when we’re together, we’re not together / And sometimes, I try to fake it, but you know me better,” Sella sings. Perhaps he is referring to the Front Bottoms’ newfound lack of a cohesive musical identity.
But where “Going Grey” lacks instrumental and thematic cohesion, it certainly makes up for in mundane uniformity – all of these songs end up running together and sounding the same.
If you’re a fan of a single drumbeat continuously looping and dissolving at the same intervals for what feels like an interminable three minutes then you’ll absolutely love the song, “Bae” – and if you love listening to a 20-something-year-old white man donkey-groan the word “bae” into a microphone on repeat then you might as well go ahead and marry it.
Even the lyrics are just saturated with indifference, really the only thing that links Sella’s singing voice to the instrumentals themselves.
“I gotta move my car, I gotta move your couch / I learnt that love tastes good, you shoved it in my mouth,” Sella sings on “Bae,” as his voice competes to out-drone the band’s bass.
But even in moments of brief levity when the album seems to achieve a semblance of tonal depth, there are too many contradicting rhythmic patterns and riffs that fail to flow together to provide the necessary catalyst for Sella’s voice to synthesize a meaningful narrative.
“Don’t Fill Up On Chips” is one example of a song in which Sella interjects slightly more emotion into his vocal performance. A pleasant rhythm unfolds over the lighthearted chorus, but the track still leaves a lot to be desired lyrically.
The album is, overall, too polished in its profound mundaneness – what was once raw and visceral about the Front Bottoms’ sound is now tired and trite.
Perhaps, the band itself is “Going Grey.” This latest release shows that, at best, a serious rethinking of their direction is in order – at worst, they have settled