Since emerging from their native Sydney, Tonight Alive have constantly found themselves in an awkward position. Not “punk” enough to be embraced from the pop-punk scene, and “too rock” to take the leap to the mainstream. Nevertheless the pop-rockers have found a solid, dedicated fanbase through their guitar-driven, hook-filled style. However for album number three, ‘Limitless’, Tonight Alive have gone through a slight transformation and sees them well and truly embracing their pop sensibilities.
Straight from the start on ‘To Be Free’, the band’s sound is polished and made for radio. It is a trait that remains consistent over the course of the 11 songs on show. Likewise the always impressive vocal talents of Jenna McDougall have been pushed to the forefront, as lightweight rock instrumentation simply compliments her voice.
Throughout ‘Limitless’, the band’s heavy pop sound is on show. ‘Oxygen’, ‘Waves’ and ’The Greatest’ all sway along with McDougall’s soothing voice in balladic fashion. Whilst recent single ‘Drive’ could be taken as infectious and as a “guilty pleasure” in equal measures, its simple rhyming wordplay and addictive chorus has all the markings of a band aiming for a wider audience. Unfortunately, it leaves a sour taste.
The upbeat ‘How Does It Feel’ sees the band somewhat return to their former rock-orientated skin, but the power-chord guitars get lost in the shuffle amongst the atmospheric synths.
Lyrically, Tonight Alive take on a theme of self-discovery and self-belief. The 90s radio rock-tinged ‘Power of One’ is a prime example of this with McDougall stating “I can be strong and brave.” Penultimate track ‘We Are’ follows up with, “They are not going to change the world. We Are.” It adds much-needed substance, albeit simply delivered.
Overall, the album is an outpouring from a band that refuse to stick to the confines of the pop-rock genre. However, the end result is a band that sound watered down to the point where you think this is a solo record from McDougall. The slick production and the overtly pop songwriting have hindered a good pop-rock band.
‘Limitless’ by Tonight Alive is released on March 4th via Easy Life/Sony RED.
Words by Sêan Reid (@SeanReid86)