Real Friends enjoyed their rise from the underground through endless EPs that highlighted their interesting take on pop-punk/rock laced with exaggerated pronunciation and emotional lyrics. Their debut record, ‘Maybe This Place Is The Same And We’re Just Changing’, progressed their sound with more refined songwriting, and some career defining highlights in ‘Loose Ends’ and ‘I Don’t Love You Anymore’. The difficult second album seems like a slight step back for the Illinois band, who have opted for a mark 2 instead of progressing or experimenting at all.
Instead of a slow introductory song like the band had on their previous record, ‘Stay In One Place’ opens the door open as quickly as possible for a lyrically deep track that, although is interesting at times, doesn’t have the pace or impact that an album opener should. Thankfully, Real Friends make up for it immediately with ‘Empty Picture Frames’ that has excitement in abundance through a catchy riff and a chorus easy to latch onto.
But, you have to wait ’til further into the album for the best bit, as ‘Mess’ has the best pop-punk hook on the record and a fun namecheck for Death Cab For Cutie, just like the band did with Jimmy Eat World back on ‘Skin Deep’; a musical insight into the influences of the band, and they certainly aren’t surprising.
The issue with pop-punk in 2016 is that the originality is so hard to come by that the whole genre has been grouped together and labelled stale. Real Friends were exciting and fresh when they broke out, but ‘The Home Inside My Head’ is an attempt to recreate the first album without adding anything exciting, and as a result it peters out into the generic pop-punk world. Not to say that it’s bad, and it’s still better than most bands out there doing the same, but you set your bar when you do something out of the ordinary and this doesn’t live up to their own reputation.
Some nods to the past like ‘Moneka’ and the slow style of ‘I’ve Given Up On You’ are more than welcome to the live set, but as a whole, there’s not enough to go back to ‘The Home Inside My Head’ when there’s other Real Friends material you could listen to.
Written by Mike Heath (@MikeBeef)