5 Seconds of Summer ‘5 Seconds of Summer’ – Review

22 Aug

The other day I stumbled upon an obnoxious and condescending “vlog” on youtube by some guy called Beez, in which he attacks the credibility of 5 Seconds of Summer. His basic argument is that the band lack “ethics” and musical technicality, and should not be taken seriously as anything other than a necessary “gateway band.” The video is right to cite the important of so-called gateway bands – Kaiser Chiefs introduced me to Blur and the generally awful pop-punk bands of the early 00’s made me a lot more receptive  when I came to listen to The Ramones. But what troubles me is this guy’s dismissal of 5 Seconds as anything more than a stepping stone and his disdain for genuine fans of the band His patronising tone and bad attitude make me all the more determined to jump to the defence of this young and enthusiastic group.

His argument falls apart fairly quickly, around the time he says that 5 Seconds of Summer aren’t worth considering on the same level as Good Charlotte or Slipknot (never mind that Good-Charlotte co-wrote the album closer ‘Amnesia’ or that the album was produced by the singer/songwriter from Goldfinger). His statment makes you realise the folly of throwing stones in glass houses and of criticising bands from a snobbish position of supposed superiority. The guy seems to assume that he has impeccable taste and if you disagree with him, then, as he puts it “shame on you.”  What makes him believe Good Charlotte are so great? Someone might point out theat they are hardly The Beatles. But then would you compare The Beatles to Mozart? What this man needs to realise is that perfect taste is an illusion and beliving you have it makes you susceptible to acting like an annoying tool. I’m not going to stand here and laugh at him for listening to Slipknot because I don’t rate that music – I may disagree with him but I hope my tone would be polite and my arguments fair and open-minded. At the end of the day, if this music appeals to this many people, it must have some positive qualities – right?

So instead of ignoring Five Seconds of Summer outright, lets give them a fair shake. What is it about this band that appeals to so many people?  The thing I like about them is that they are teenagers writing about teenage anxieties with nativity, enthusiasm and humour. They are engaging with fresh emotions at the shallow end and singing openly about teenage issues like being stuck in ‘the friend zone’ and wishing you were 18. Listening to them almost makes me feel that young again. It reminds me of a time when I didn’t have to over think everything, and when emotions were more black and white and people were free of baggage that is acquired over age. There is life in these songs and innocence over experience. This is equally true of the music. They ape Fall Out Boy on ‘English Love Affair’, Busted on ‘Heartbreak Girl’, Green Day on ’18’ and Bastille on ‘Everything I didn’t Say’. They probably only heard these bands for the first time fairly recently and they try to replicate their idols music with enthusiasm and verve. Without wishing to be patronising, it’s likely that they haven’t traced Punk’s family tree back very far and so what you’re hearing is a cute imitation of an imitation of a sound that was born decades ago. Yet they approach the style with such passion that you can’t help but be won over.

So 5 Seconds are a youthful band making music that is soaked in the blood of young heartbreak with the musical DNA of the biggest rock bands of recent years. That’s fine by me. From the off the album is a battering ram of compressed guitars and powerhouse drumming complimented by almost invisible radio-friendly sheen and glitter. It starts with the two best and best known songs, ‘She’s So Perfect’ and ‘Don’t Stop’ which are witty love songs featuring on point brand references and knowing winks to older fans; they immediately let you know that 5 Seconds of Summer are working on several different levels for different listeners, in the same way Shrek was sort of the first kids film to appeal equally to adults. There are lyrical nods to Kurt Cobain, Green Day and Bon Jovi, and for those playing closer attention the musical winks are even more enjoyable (the classic pop-punk chord changes on ’18’s’ Bridge for example). The guitars are surprisingly heavy, the content is occasionally weighty and there is a fair bit of musical variety. In other words it’s an enjoyable album on an instantaneous, surface level but there is stuff going on under the surface that makes this a meaningful rather than meaningless album.

5 Seconds aren’t the first teenage boys to pick up guitars to pick up girls, you can go back to The Beatles, The Monkees right through to Mcfly and Busted. 5 Seconds of Summer don’t do it as well as any of the above; their songs can be amusing but they aren’t as funny as Busted, the melodies are hummable but not as hummable as Mcfly’s, nor do I believe they have the staying power of their 1960’s forbearers. I’d like a bit more variety, especially with the tempos and song structures, all of which follow similar instructions, but there is more to like than dislike here. I like that the music emphasises melody over trendy production techniques. I like that each song contains more hooks than a bait shop. I like that the lyrics have bite and personality – even if the personality sometimes feels overly-familiar and slightly bratty. Yet that familiarity is also a strength, because it means every man and his dog will find something to instantly enjoy here. Unless you’re a snobby youtube critic. Come on, resistance is surely futile.

7/10

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