Chances are, if you’re in a pop-punk band in 2016, you’re going to be in some way derivative of what has gone before. It’s a sad fact, but the scene is far beyond the point of saturation and to stand out you’re going to have to bring something new to the table.
Oxford sextet Better Than Never fare better than most on ‘Head Under Water’, taking cues from New Found Glory, Moose Blood and A Day To Remember to create a sound that pillages liberally yet never feels like a tribute, despite adhering rigidly to the tired pop-punk tropes (even down to the clichéd cartoon artwork).
‘Head Under Water’ starts off like a runaway train – opener ‘126’ is a foot-stomping minute prelude that sets the scene for the following four songs. Backed by a first rate production job (it honestly sounds massive) and vocals that aren’t overly-Americanised, there’s a clear identity despite the lack of originality. ‘Learning To Swim’ is even better, building on this strong start with a killer chorus and some bold hooks.
In fact, if you’ll excuse the pun, ‘Head Above Water’ goes along swimmingly until you hit the faux-hardcore/melodic hardcore silliness of ‘Forty Eight’. At best ill-judged, it absolutely destroys the flow of the EP, and you might even question if it’s the same band. That said, at least it isn’t an insufferable ‘heartfelt’ acoustic number.
Fortunately, closing number ‘Closehill Lane’ serves as a suitable palate cleanser, erasing the bitter taste and preparing you for another run through the all-too-brief EP.
‘Head Under Water’ is far from perfect – nor does it reinvent the genre – but it does possess a strong identity, a shiny production job and sterling songwriting. In a competitive and oversaturated genre, it might just be enough to mark out Better Than Never as 2017’s most likely to…
’Head Under Water’ EP by Better Than Never is released on 2nd December on Fox Records.
Words by Rob Mair (@BobNightMair)