By Liam Menzies (@blinkclyro)
Real Friends are a pop punk band from Chicago which they will never allow you to forget during their breakout EP. Exhibit A: Anchor Down, the sophomore track on Everyone That Dragged You Here which starts off with “I don’t really think I’m ready for another Chicago winter“, a simple lyric that may lead you to believe that the act wasn’t anything to get bothered about back in 2012, regardless if they’ve now accumulated a solid fanbase as well as two studio records. However, to call them off as just another sappy pop punk band would be doing both Real Friends and yourself a huge disservice.
Let’s go back to the aforementioned Anchor Down which, instrumentally, isn’t breaking any boundaries: driving guitars start to pulsate right before a climactic chorus with the trademark chugging emo rock chords playing a dominant role throughout the track. It does the job right but all of this has become stale considering the abundance of bands who have since utilised these instrumental staples. One thing has managed to stand the test of times, though. Lyrics are where Real Friends stand out, emerging from their suburban homes as pop punk poets with a great deal of transparency. Anchor Down is unrelentingly honest and transparent with “anchor down your feet, say fuck the past and everyone that dragged you here” being a particular highlight of the track. Even frontman Dan Lambton even admits on the band’s blog is a bit on the mean side, ‘appreciation’s something you lost in the dirt that’s on your hands and knees‘, but the brutal honesty manages to be delivered without dipping its toes into any sexist waters.
That’s not to say that the act covered any subjects that hadn’t already been done to death in the genre before as ex-girlfriends and feeling like the world is against you is the bread and butter of pop punk). Rather than finding new topics, it’s the way that they manage to explore them that helps Everyone That Dragged You Here to not feel like a relic of a time long forgotten.
Opening track Floorboards is often regarded as the band’s best track and for good reason: it begins with such unfiltered energy that you’d be forgiven for not realising that the track covers one of the lowest points in Lambton’s life. The song uses the word “you” once but still manages to deliver direct post-break up feelings with a lot of original intent, specifically the line about “being jealous of the trees next to my neighbour’s garage” managing to evoke the feelings of being unable to change and the sorrow this brings. This kind of lyricism has since became expected of the band and, for the most part, Real Friends have made good on their promise of continuing this insightfulness.
Does Everyone That Dragged You Here fall into some cliche potholes? Of course, it does. You could make a drinking game out of the number of times Lambton refers to his bony knees and Real Friends aren’t the first band to hark back to listening to American Football. “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 Lambton in an interview with Rock Sound prior to the release of their debut studio album. Real Friends and Everyone… stand out by, well, not trying to stand out at all. While they may hark to cheesier times of pop punk, their ambiguous lines that deliver a great deal of honesty manages to show the genre ain’t the same rotting corpse from the 90’s.