Review: Back On Top by The Front Bottoms
Artist: The Front Bottoms
Album: Back On Top
Genre: Indie-rock, Rock ‘n’ Roll (What does that even mean?)
Recommended if you like: Modern Baseball, blink-182, Sorority Noise, Tigers Jaw
When The Front Bottoms announced that they signed to a new label, leaving Bar/None Records, I had mixed feelings about how this album would turn out. Especially because the label they happened to sign to was Fueled By Ramen, which has not had a good reputation with keeping a band in the same genre that they started with. After basically selling out bands like Panic! At the Disco, Paramore, and Fall Out Boy many fans were not happy about TFB signing to their new label. I got to talk to Brian Sella about it before they announced Back On Top and he said, “We just wanted to get up on the next level. We already have a great following and we want to take it further. It’s not like we are gonna sell out or stop making our shitty rock music anytime soon.” But even as the singles were released throughout the summer I could tell it was going to be a completely different album. The vocals were starting to be synthesized which depleted their original rawness that made their unique sound. It was very worrisome before the actual record was released.
Since the release, however, the entire album is amazing. You can tell that they have a more produced and clean sound but I don’t think it has anything to do with their new label. They are maturing as a band and have a more planned out approach to this album. After listening to it on repeat over the weekend, each song brings a different aspect that TFB has been showing throughout the last seven years. They still maintain Brian’s insightful and quirky lyrics and Mat’s upbeat, but punk rock drumming patterns while keeping the addition of Ciaran on electric guitar, horns, and keys and Tom’s backup vocals and bass lines. They truly made a great, new album that shows progression in their artistic ability and still keeps aspects of their pasts selves. I can’t wait to see their live show with the new material they have behind them.
Motorcycle: Starts off with some great guitar leads and then Brian’s usual off-beat but somehow relatable lyrics. This song starts the album off to a completely new type of sound that The Front Bottoms have ever had. A much more clean and textured song but still keeping that Jersey-punk aspect they started with.
Favorite Lyric: “Most of us are older now, we should know wrong from right:
Summer Shandy: This song combines Brian’s unique lyric style with the band’s ever-present style. This was my favorite single that they released before the entire album came out. A semi-mellow/sad song that reminds you of summer leaving and the good memories that you made during it.
Favorite Lyric: “Yeah that would be great, that would be beach house livin'”
Cough It Out: A very polished song that I really didn’t like at first. Brian is using synthesizers on his voice which wasn’t natural to hear. However, the more I listened to it the more it grew on me. I can’t pick a favorite on the album until I truly digest the music for a while, but this is a top contender. I also feel like this song could easily put TFB onto another level and bring in a ton of new fans. Allison Weiss is featured in this song and does the beautiful background harmonies.
Favorite Lyric: “I like the in-betweens, I like the time it takes to get somewhere. If you know what I mean, wave you hands in the air like you just don’t care.”
HELP: This song is ridiculously catchy and I have learned to really appreciate it. The lyrics are really powerful in this one and Brian is really straight forward with the point of the song, which doesn’t happen often. Side note: I heard this song while watching the music video the day it was released and it made me very mad. This is because they had a different person film their music video. They have always had one director throughout the years and the music video felt weird.
Favorite Lyric: “This is what I want motherfucker make it happen for me.”
Laugh Till I Cry: This song has very good vibes and a really solid layout the entire time. The chorus is very catchy and the lyrics are simple but can hit hard depending on your situation. The breakdown is pretty comical which is a great thing to hear.
Favorite Lyric: “Ladies and gentleman, the DJ just threw up on the dance floor”
Historic Cemetery: This one doesn’t really stand out on the album at all for me. I think it has all the aspects to push to be a really great song but Brian’s vocals sort of kill it for me on this one, which I don’t understand because I love his type of singing. It may possibly be because of the very over-produced feel to it and sometimes filtered vocal parts. This track features GDP who did a split with them while they were still on Bar/None Records.
Favorite Lyric: “I can’t begin, begin to tell you the way it all felt when everything fell through”
The Plan (Fuck Jobs): This song has a lot of history over the past couple years. TFB have been performing this song since right after Talon of the Hawk came out and now they finally produced it. The studio version of this song does not disappoint and I love the random breakdowns throughout the song that bring in a very cheerful tune with a really sick drum line behind it.
Favorite Lyric: “I fucking hate the comments. Why do you feel you have to talk. Nobody asked for your opinion, your sick sad way of jerking off. Everyone, you think you’re better than. What the fuck? I’m guilty too. Half the time that I’m complaining I’m just talking shit on you. I’m sorry.”
Ginger: I don’t know how I feel about this one. The lyrics are definitely interesting and I like the way the instruments are mixed. But I feel like this was sort of thrown in before it was actually finished and they just threw it together last minute. But that’s just me…
Favorite Lyric: “Everything’s a cavity, the last few months especially”
2YL: A not so sweet and soft love song. Another one that hasn’t really clicked with me yet. I’m sure it will grow on me at some point but love songs in the 21st century are sort of weird in general anyways. Then adding Brian and his lyrics in make them weirder.
Favorite Lyric: “I could fight the rain clouds in your life.”
West Virginia: At the moment this is the best song on the album for me. It resonates with every single previous album and type of song that TFB has put out since they started. I think that it shows how much they have matured throughout the years and how they still are trying to keep their punk aspect that they started with while still maintaining and intensely clean sound that they haven’t really promoted themselves as.
Favorite Lyric: “Right now I’m just a psycho hell-bent on self destruction”
Plastic Flowers: I really like how personal Brian can get with his lyrics while still being indirect with everything he says. This one incorporates a sing-along part to it which is something new they haven’t done but the fans just picked up at their live performances. I feel like this song could be utilized in a live performance to outstanding levels. I really like how they end off the album with a fun last couple seconds that reminds me of “Swimming Pool”.
Favorite Lyrics: “They say the good thing about plastic flowers is you can spray them with any type of perfume.”/”Cause we are all eventually either the victims, or the victim’s family.”
Overall, I would highly suggest this album and will still be closely following every move that The Front Bottoms make in the next couple years with what they are doing musically. I don’t think any other band compares to the style they are creating and the fan base that they have created behind them. Signing to a new label will take them huge places and I just hope that it won’t be the reason that anything changes with who they are and the music they make.