“If you think the band is some revolutionary thing, that’s very flattering, but we don’t try to go out and say we are the new Fall Out Boy or we’re the next Wonder Years” said Real Friends vocalist Dan Lambton in an interview with Rock Sound prior to the release of their debut studio album, setting the mantra from 2014 onwards. In a genre that can surprise as quickly as it can stagnate, it was surprising to have one of the most prosperous pop punk bands of the 2010’s to hit out with such a quote, leaving some fans with a new found respect for the band with others being apprehensive about the albums that were to follow.
Fast forward to now and we have the dreaded sophomore album that is as much a cliche in music as it is in the reviews that cover them. While the tracks drip fed in the build up to The Home Inside My Head‘s release gave listeners the impression that the band could focus more on high octane, riff heavy anthems and cut back on the emotional ballads that made up quite a chunk of Maybe This Place Is The Same And We’re Just Changing, the result is something that doesn’t feel like a step back for Real Friends but neither does it feels like they’re going anywhere either.
This isn’t much of a surprise considering some of the songs that appear on THIMH. Take Mess for instance, no doubt the highlight on this record, has lyrics that manage to be fresh for the act due to being about something other than a break up! All jokes aside, the crisp production value along with a catchy as all hell chorus makes the track feel like Real Friend’s have been working hard on their songwriting capabilities since MTPITSAWJC and, despite what they’re saying in the public eye, are making efforts to progress as a band.
However, this track, alongside Mokena and closer Colder Quicker which thankfully leaves the record on a high, distorted note rather than dwelling in self pity, are arguably the only real standout tracks on offer. Everything else, while not terrible, feels pretty banal in terms of both the band and the genre itself which may be an unfortunate byproduct of the Real Friend’s low aspirations to change. Repetitive and cliche lyrical themes can conflict anyone that approaches the albums as on one hand the familiarity may very well make itself at home though, personally, I’m reaching my threshold when it comes to pop punk acts making comparisons between their woes and sea related objects.
What needs to be said about THIMH is that for fans of both the band and pop punk, you’re going to leave satisfied: it ticks all the right boxes but still falls short in terms of being a fully fleshed follow up to Real Friend’s surprisingly solid debut record. A few golden tracks here and there makes this an album that’s worth a venture though one you’ll maybe be resilient to taking again.
-Liam Menzies (@blinkclyro)