A name inspired by eternal man-childs and pop-as-hell-punk legends Blink-182, a sound greatly indebted to Lifetime and Midtown, a slogan-born initiative to bring kids together to ‘defend pop punk’, it’s easy to see how Man Overboard have managed to dig their way into the hearts of pop-punk fans. Prolific, generously catchy, animated by youthful angst and relentlessly energetic, the New Jersey lot project an identity that perfectly fits the fan-craving mold as they seduce with their ability to walk a blurry line between street-credibility and childishness. A pop-punk fan’s wet dream, in other words.
Yet gazillionth release ‘Heart Attack’ might prove an alienating move for hordes of loyal fans of Man Overboard are confronted with a release that contains several tracks over 3’30’’ (LOUD GASPS, MUFFLED CRYING, YOUTUBE RANTS, NEWSLETTER UNSUBSCRIBES). In fact, apart from a handful of tracks in the first quarter of the album (namely ‘Secret Pain’, ‘Boy Without Batteries’ and ‘Where I Left You’), the band’s signature commitment to breakneck pace has been largely discarded, emphasizing the album’s sonic shift in the direction of a less urgent brand of pop-rock. Nowhere is it more obvious than on the baffling ‘How To Hide Your Feelings’ which shares a rather suspicious number of similarities with All-American Rejects’ ‘Give You Hell’. Some will make their own mind as to how that comparison might serve as a potent critique in its own right.
The slight shift in style and the rather more obvious shift in gears are sure to feed the fires of controversy, but fans need not fear a loss of the band’s somewhat adolescent lyrical style. The album features a steady of flow of suitably glum themes, punctuated with their signature punchline-like phrasing. ’No one’s arm to hold, not for now / Sleepless nights alone’ and ‘Why’s in nobody alone but me?’ they deliver with a Jimmy Eat World commitment to melody, anchoring their realistic audience even more firmly in the ‘outcast teenager’ stratification of the popularity scale.
What is certain is that Man Overboard’s stylistic move will inevitably draw in new crowds, but they might find themselves privy to a competing “exiting” flow as some fans will be sure to bemoan the fading presence of their hardcore backbone. However, their undeniable knack for a catchy chorus and accessible quality will more likely than not gloss over such vain, fan-instilled, vagaries, though their transition feels more like a loss for pop-punk kids than a win for their newly acquired audience.
‘Heart Attack’ by Man Overboard is out on the 27th May onRise Records.
Words by James ‘Bearclaw’ Lewis (@swissbearclaw)