Gig Review: The Front Bottoms @ The Barras, Glasgow

words + photos by dominic cassidy (@lyre_of_apollo)

The Front Bottoms were back in Glasgow, on tour for their latest album: Going Grey. After the unconventionalness of their fourth LP, I was stressing to see what their show would be like – but thankfully they did not disappoint.

Preceding them were a set of solid support acts: psychedelic American outfit Brick + Mortar were the first to get the crowd prepped for the New Jersey rock boys who exploded onto the stage in ecstatic weirdness – and immediately pulled the crowd into their set. The main support for the night was Aussie lo-fi rockers the Smith Street Band – whose chill noises grooved over the crowd, sounding quite like old school Front Bottoms and setting up perfectly for the top billing.

The Front Bottoms, shrouded in shadow, kicked off the night, being met with ravenous applause from the Barrowlands crowd. The band opened with You Used To Say (Holy Fuck) to an explosive response. It really shows the band at their best – turning a song with electro inflections – and from an album that didn’t receive the most positive reviews – into a stripped down, absolutely interstellar opening for their set.

The band hit out with Help and Vacation Town next. These tracks with very little input from the band, turned the audience into a swirling mess of mosh pits and lyrics being thrown up to the band. I think this really speaks to the whole vibe of The Front Bottoms, being able to make songs with such affecting and often dour lyrics so relatable that the audience knows them verbatim.

As the show went on, the band hit some of the older tracks out with the likes of Swimming Pool and Be Nice To Me, among others. The band then finished off their set with Twin Size Mattress. It was these tracks that really showed the real vibe of the band – hitting out with music that they know the fans love. And in saying that, this comfort really lends itself to the band, you can see on stage how happy they are to be there.

After the wee “that’s us done” walk-off, the band were immediately called back for one more tune. Frontman Brian Sella monologued for a bit, talking to the crowd, and about Scotland – before getting right into it with 12 Feet Deep; with which the rest of the band faded back in, transitioning from Sella playing solo to the full band back on stage together. After this the ever fantastic Skeleton was wheeled out, followed by the last track of the night, Oceans. It seems like it gave some sense of narrative to the night as the band had opened with the first track off Going Grey. However it does seem like a kinda funny choice to make for the last track of the night – and even more, for the encore songs. Despite this, it still delivered a great performance for the crowd, showing off really well what the band can do.

The Front Bottoms is a band which easily inspire a sense of chillness as well as a sense of togetherness – encouraging you to rock out to a cracking band in a room full of people that are doing the same. Plain and simple: it’s just pretty cool.

The Front Bottoms – Going Grey ALBUM REVIEW

By Ryan Martin (@RyanMartin182)

The Front Bottoms have been one of the biggest stars of the underground indie community of this decade. Originating as a duo of simple acoustic power chords, provocative lyrics, and catchy melodies, TFB have managed to retain their dedicated fan base since the release of their self-titled 6 years ago. Surely, fans must expect the raw, emotional, amateur sound of the early releases to evolve and mature over time. This was hinted at with 2015’s Back On Top, which incorporated a fuller and more mainstream sound to what fans were used to expecting from the New Jersey duo. TFB’s latest, Going Grey, takes a strong lead into the direction Back On Top foreshadowed. With heavy synths, trap hi-hats, and minor use of the acoustic guitar, it’s leaving day one fans scratching their heads.

Now backed by a major-label home to acts like Twenty One Pilots, Paramore, and All Time Low (who are also all acts that have changed their sound to suit a more mainstream audience), The Front Bottoms have made the full transition into an indie-pop rock act. Songs like Grand Finale and Trampoline are nauseating examples of the new sound TFB have acquired. Being a fan of TFB for quite some time now, the idea of a new sound doesn’t upset me. As much as I would have loved another song like The Beers on Going Grey, the members are all growing older and wiser and trying to mature the sound of their band. The material of Going Grey is a full departure from their earlier work and a very clear attempt to market themselves as a popular mainstream act. Making the record feel cheap, unclean and almost painful to get through.

With multiple listens, songs from Going Grey only unravel their flaws overtime rather than bloom into songs with a lasting impact. Front man Brian Sella’s vocals on the opening track, You Used to Say (Holy Fuck) sound less like the raw passionate ones heard on earlier records and instead sounds out of place behind an overproduced and forgettable instrumental. Songs like Peace Sign and Vacation Town use poppy piano and horn riffs to latch their way into your brain and have dull choruses. Lyrically, Brian Sella steps back immensely. Earlier lyrics from the band left lyrics that felt honest and like they meant something to both the listener and the writer. Lyrics from Going Grey either sound like a cheap attempt to cater to tweens or come off as clunky. Don’t Fill Up On Chips has existed as a demo Sella had been workshopping for months and made its way onto YouTube as an acoustic song called Tommy. The final product is one of the clumsiest songs not even on the record but of this year. The chorus is stale and the lyrics from the verses are too corny to be taken seriously with lines like

“Tommy I love you

I confess

Are you impressed

With what I profess?”

Highlights include Raining and Vacation Town, which are built off of strong instrumentals and decent hooks. While maintaining the same sound as the rest of the record, there’s an amount of charm that shines through with these two tracks that stands above the others. They’re by no means fantastic tracks but in the context of Going Grey, they’re fun track to nod your head to. An interesting aspect of Going Grey is the decrease in quality behind the choruses. Tracks like Far Drive, which sounds like a rip-off of a Walk The Moon song, have such poorly written choruses that it could have been done by a poetic middle-schooler.

“Far drive

Totally worth it

Just to see you

Act alive

Plus being

In the car with

People you love is

Always a good time”

Going Grey plays front to back much less like an album but more as a collection of songs. There are too many skippable songs for an 11-track record and not enough heartfelt moments for it to even feel like a Front Bottoms record. The only consistent element throughout TFB’s discography is the vocal range that Sella has kept throughout the years. It’s the only thing that still feels in place about the band but also sounds so out of place when backed by a sound that sounds desperate for radio play. Going Grey may have added more elements, instruments, and layers to TFB’s early minimalistic approach, but the result sounds less like an evolved, matured version of the band than a sell-out, cheapened version.