MOVING ON UP?
Have AGAINST THE CURRENT gone deep enough on second LP?
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