Have AGAINST THE CUR­RENT gone deep enough on sec­ond LP?

Kerrang! (UK) - - Reviews -

Against The Cur­rent have never hid­den their main­stream am­bi­tions. The New York trio’s catchy pop-punk has al­ways been laced with synths and ef­fects, but it’s also char­ac­terised by the heart­felt hon­esty that ra­di­ates from vo­cal­ist Chrissy Costanza. The mu­sic on Past Lives might not be par­tic­u­larly chal­leng­ing, but the lyri­cal con­tent of songs like Per­sonal, which tells the story of the death of a friend, is any­thing but easy-go­ing. It’s these mo­ments which of­fer proof that, be­neath the su­per­fi­cial sheen that so of­ten dom­i­nates here, there is nev­er­the­less a depth to what ATC do that should come out more of­ten.

Whereas de­but LP In Our Bones be­gan with the adren­a­line-fu­elled call-to-arms of pop­punk banger Run­ning With The Wild Things, Past Lives in­tro­duces it­self in a more mea­sured fash­ion, with open­ing track Strangers Again be­ing a catchy alt.pop num­ber charged by Chrissy’s emo­tional de­liv­ery. Else­where, The Fuss is doused in an ’80s aes­thetic that re­sem­bles Paramore’s After Laugh­ter, while Voices pos­sesses a sassi­ness that pow­ers its funk-in­spired sound. But it’s songs like Al­most For­got and I Like The Way that re­ally stick out here, for good and bad. The lat­ter owes as much to Tay­lor Swift as it does Against The Cur­rent’s pop­punk con­tem­po­raries, and speaks loudly of the band’s de­sire to cross over into the world of pop.

This is no doubt am­bi­tious, but it finds Against The Cur­rent re­ly­ing far too much on the pop side of their sound, re­sult­ing in a record that’s lack­ing in both stay­ing power and any true iden­tity. Sure, there are a cou­ple of ear­worms, but this al­bum would’ve ben­e­fited from re­tain­ing the reck­less aban­don that char­ac­terised their de­but. As un­re­mark­able num­bers like clos­ing track Sweet Sur­ren­der demon­strate, much of Past Lives is far too pol­ished.

Still, de­spite this be­ing a very clean­cut record, there are fleet­ing mo­ments of per­son­al­ity. ‘You’ve just got to be who you are/that’s all you can be,’ Chrissy sings on P.A.T.T., a song which finds her tak­ing the is­sue of mod­ern-day beauty stan­dards to task in ad­mirable fash­ion. More of that, and less of the throw­away pop, would have served Against The Cur­rent much bet­ter.

Whether Past Lives will res­onate with au­di­ences be­yond pop-punk re­mains to be seen, but while it’s cer­tainly am­bi­tious, this is an al­bum that finds Against The Cur­rent aban­don­ing their rock roots. In do­ing so, they’ve made a record that doesn’t re­ally know if it’s com­ing or go­ing. JAKE RICHARD­SON

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