After signing to heavy-hitters Fueled By Ramen in 2015, New Jersey two-piece The Front Bottoms have released their second record for the label, ‘Going Grey’. More so than its predecessor, ‘Back on Top’, ‘Going Grey’ sounds like a major label release, filled with shiny production and a bunch of stadium-ready anthems. Opener ‘You Used to Say (Holy Fuck)’ is an intentionally jarring full-on synthpop track. As well as pulling the style off, TFB draw listeners attention to ‘Going Grey’ by opening on a track which departs from their signature sound.
The rest of the album drops the synthpop stuff, returning to their traditional folk-punk sound, but nevertheless retains the atmosphere established by the opener. ‘Bae’ is, despite showing a vastly matured version of TFB, irresistibly catchy. Its one-word, eponymous earworm, as well as the following chorus, reminds us of everything great about the band. Parts of ‘Going Grey’ even benefit from the polished production, such as the monster hook on ‘Grand Finale’.
Although this may alienate some diehard TFB fans, it’s arguable that this is the natural next step for the band – they’ve been slowly refining their manchild-folk-punk shtick since 2013’s ‘Talon of the Hawk’. Add to this that familiar lyrical themes like anxiety (‘Bae’), weed (‘Vacation Town’) and relationships (every song, obviously), and it becomes apparent that this is still the same ol’ Front Bottoms.
This approach doesn’t always work, though. The final two tracks, ‘Everyone But You’ and ‘Oceans’ show the band being bogged down by the pop-oriented approach of the album. Both are weakly written and rely too much on shiny production. ‘Don’t Fill Up on Chips’ is also pretty forgettable.
Thankfully, these tracks are kept to a minimum, and there’s plenty of bouncy fun and big hooks on songs like ‘Vacation Town’,and great riffs on ‘Far Drive’ – it’s just better-produced than before. Despite the change in direction, ‘Going Grey’ is a solid entry into the band’s back-catalogue.
‘Going Grey’ by The Front Bottoms is out now on Fueled by Ramen.
Words by Alan Cunningham (@funeral_polis)