When a pop-punk band wants to make a concentrated attack on the mainstream there’s a tried and tested formula to follow. One that mostly involves waiting the balance of their sound heavily in favour of the pop element. Panic! At The Disco and Fall Out Boy have both done it with dazzling results and now Set It Off are following suit with their third album ‘Upside Down’.
Cody Carson and co made no bones about how poppy things would be, and even roped in a trio of former Panic, FOB, Avril Lavigne and 5SOS producers to smooth the transition. The result is a slick record that effortlessly hops around genres and makes Carson sound like a megastar, albeit one that’s been over produced to within an inch of its life.
’Life Afraid’ and closer ’Me W/o Us’ both reach near Bieber levels of saccharine white kid pop-hop, while the title track also borrows heavily from hip-hop and R’n’B, but at least shows that Carson has a smooth flow to his delivery for a pop-punk kid.
Occasionally the darker, grittier and altogether more dramatic streak that made 2014’s ‘Duality’ an intriguing listen rears its head on tracks like ‘Want’ and ‘Admit It’, with the latter merging their previous sound with a plethora of hip-hop influences to the strongest results of anything on the album. Later ‘Hypnotised’ is utterly scathing in its disdainful analysis of the more unsavoury events of the band’s recent past.
For all ‘Upside Down’ makes for a nice (yes nice), fresh and faultlessly engineered listen, it just isn’t interesting enough to hold attention for protracted periods of time. Too many of the tracks seem to blend into one long overly sickly sweet, rather soulless affair, resulting in you zoning out for multiple songs at a time. As an attempt to reinvent themselves, it’s a bold and strikingly different offering, but doesn’t retain enough of what made their fans give a shit in the first place.
‘Upside Down’ by Set It Off is released on October 7th on Rude Records.
Words by Dane Wright (@MrDaneWright)