1 April 2017

AS IT IS - okay.

A round of ‘Cover Roulette’ is required before I dive back into the submissions pile to break the cobwebs that have been rising around me at the moment.  I have decided to look at the latest release from AS IT IS, a pop punk band who hail from Brighton, on the south coast of England.  Now, with the cover being as American as Apple Pie, I was really surprise to find out they are from the UK, I tend to wrongly automatically assume that all Pop Punk bands are from the USA; it is where most of the band’s I originally loved from this genre have originated from.  This album is their second studio album, one which they have stated moves away from their raw and emo sound, to create something which is polished and more upbeat.  But they have also stated that it is an album that deals with darker subjects, this is a contradiction and will be hard to pull off.  But that is not why I started this review, it comes down just to the cover – for people who do not know, occasionally I will review an album just based on the cover and nothing else; I must not know the band beforehand and I will only pick one due to the cover.  This cover is a 50’s stylised image and it is very intriguing; the lady is smiling, but is carrying a bomb which is likely to go off at any point.  I get that image, it is a really strong image, but does the music match?

01 – Pretty Little Distance

If you have ever heard a pop punk album before, you will get a sense of familiarity with this band from the first opening song; it is a 101-pop punk number – unrequited love, big sing along chorus, a joy tune to some dark lyrics and all tied up tighter than a jar of pickles when you want the content of the jar in your belly.  It is a pure and simple song that does not step too far out of its own parameters – job done.

02 – Okay

The title track of the album which deals with the subject of depression with a tune that is so catchy and jolly that it does come across as slightly bi-polar.  That is not a criticism as it takes a lot of courage to air these types of views and it must be hard on the soul to have to do so (I know it was for me when I had to reach for help).  It is something that also gives this song a head and shoulders feeling above the rest of the album in a way, it is brave and still slightly vulnerable with a hint of confidence behind the music at least.  It is a big smash and should be one of the biggest pop-punk song this year.

03 – Hey Rachel

A love song (with a twist) about things that are long gone, the belated apology to selfish acts of the older brother (did you see the twist there); it is something that will have been cathartic for the song writer of the band and it will also be a number that has a lot of personal resonance with a lot of people.  But the music is just that wrong shade of happy in a way to match the song, it does not need to be a new miserable experience, but the joy guitar playing is too much in debt to the Ataris to pay the cheques it has wrote sadly.  Decent, but it also tells more about the band than it really should be doing.

04 – Patchwork Love

This is another song which is well play, but singing from a familiar song book; it is a song about being in a relationship and letting the other person do all the work and spend all their energy and it feels sort of sad from beginning to end, but all the time it has those big hooks which speak about getting the crowd to bounce whilst the message is sort of lost.  It is not really doing anything wrong, but there is nothing spot on happening either.

05 – Curtain Close

Now it is time for the slower song, with the strings and the final nail in a family is driven in with this melodic piece of music that tries to be as respectful to what will have to be an incredibly hard and horrible event to go through.  It is one of the strongest moments on this album, mainly due to the passion, emotive content and pace of the song matching each other.  As I have said in other reviews, when a song is done right, it will always sound superb – no matter the genre.

06 – No Way Out

Another song about being lost and alone, with more smash and grab pop punk that does not quite match the content of the lyrics once again.  I cannot fault to performance as it is well performed, but it does not quite match those other levels which could be reached on the song.  A missed opportunity I feel has hit the band once more.

07 – Soap

Mixing a reggae style riff at the beginning was a bit of a false heron for this one, but the song is totally influenced by the band Brand New.  It is a good song and has some of the best riffs of the album; however, as good as these guys are playing, I sadly cannot escape the feeling that I have heard this before.

08 – Austen

A song about having to go through what every person on this planet sadly have to do from time to time – watch someone who they love and who raised them fade before them.  If you have ever been in this situation, you will recognise and identify with the situation; if you have not, then you are a lucky person.  Musically, it is a slower piece that for the most parts, it solo/bridge for me does not quite work but it is still a heart wrenching piece for this genre.

09 – Until I Return

A song about being unable to keep one’s self together when the other person is in another part of the world, this is something that will occur for people whose jobs take them all over the world.  It is a sensitive subject for the band, but the music does not match the sentiment once again for me; it is almost there, but there is too much energy behind it.  Close, but no cigar.

10 – The Coast Is Where the Home Is

A song about how your home time (in this case it is their home city of Brighton, UK) can change over the years and those lost places and past moments make it a place that no longer seems like home; but in the same breath you identify that place as your home (for me it is a place called North Shields in the North East of England, ironically near the coast as well).  I get it, places evolve and you can lose a sense of base to that place whilst still identifying it as your square one.  The music also matches for me on this one, a really good track.

11 – Still Remembering

The acoustic driven ending song, full with strings and a song about regrets, lost loves and those emotional depths.  An expected moment, but a well performed one as well.  I cannot criticise them for the performance here, thankfully they leave the loud guitars and do not walk into that tempting rock it up at the end.  A quite ending to this pop punk album.

To say this is a disposable album is doing the band a disservice in one way, but by the very nature of the genre it has a quick turn over and sadly for AS IT IS they fall into that category to a certain degree, but not without having a certain charm and some solid songs. The song that do not work for me are not bad, they just need the same riff to be played slightly different style – sad subjects sometimes do not need jolly and happy music.  But it is not that I am not a fan of this genre, some of my favourite pop punk album are from when the genre was aimed at my target audience – Homegrown, Sum 41, Blink-182 – but as I am now a little older, this style of Pop Punk is not for me as my tastes have changed over the years. Whilst I appreciate the effort and time that AS IT IS have applied to their craft and how deep their collective feelings are poured into some of these songs, it does not work for me as the pop element (i.e. the disposable end of the spectrum) is too strong for me.  It is not a poor album as the band are well versed in their particular craft, to be honest it is one of the best Pop Punk albums I have heard this year; but it is one that will find its home in the arms of those who are more attuned to their sound than me.

6 out of ten – Now I see where you were going, but it is not quite there…...

Top track – Okay

You can purchase okay. on Amazon here.

You can visit the AS IT IS website here.

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