Photo courtesy of youdontknowjersey.com
The Front Bottoms faced a difficult task with the release of their third studio album, “Back on Top.” The New Jersey rock band was expected to deliver something new and different while still retaining the quirky qualities that their fans had come to adore. Despite being stuck between a rock and a hard place, The Front Bottoms managed to produce an album with a variety of songs that both new listeners and longtime fans can enjoy.
“Back on Top” is The Front Bottoms first album produced under Fueled by Ramen, the record label that has signed bands such as Panic! At the Disco and Twenty One Pilots. With the transition to a larger label however, some expressed concern that the band would be pressured to move in a more commercial musical direction. While there are some pop elements throughout the record, “Back on Top” features the same offbeat lyrics and indie-rock dance grooves present on previous albums like “The Front Bottoms” and “Talon of the Hawk.”
Among the several standout tracks is “Cough It Out,” the third song on the album and one of the first singles to be released earlier this summer. Front man Brian Sella’s wonderfully nasally vocals are complimented by an acoustic guitar and a subtle but commanding bassline. However, the lyrics seem somewhat cliché when he sings the chorus, “All the branches on the tree/ that we carved our initials in seem to bend and take the shape of them/ and oh, can’t you see/ I am delusional with love, I am delusional with love.” Regardless, the track is impossibly catchy and fit for alternative radio airplay.
Another high point for the album is “Historic Cemetery.” Sella’s moody lyrics combined with heavier chords and a light keyboard track carry the song along. However, the spoken-word outro by rapper GDP leaves something to be desired. GDP’s monotonous delivery is unimpressive compared to Sella’s emotional cadence.
There were a few disappointing tracks, such as “HELP” and “Laugh Till I Cry,” only because the pop influence clearly overshadows the folk punk and acoustic rock vibes present on previous records. “Laugh Till I Cry” is underwhelming because it relies on overly simplistic and borderline boring lyricism. Case in point, the chorus consists of Sella lamenting, “Ladies and gentlemen/ the DJ/ just threw up on the dance floor/party is over/ it’s time to go.”
Overall, “Back on Top” is a solid album. The Front Bottoms have created a record that their dedicated fan base will love, as well as anyone else who enjoys a quirky indie rock experience.