After a five-year absence from writing music, Canadian pop-punk mob Living With Lions have now returned with their much awaited third studio album, ‘Island’.
Their last effort back in 2013 was their three-track EP, ‘Some Of My Friends Are Dead To Me’, with the last full album before that, and the band’s breakthrough moment in some regards, was their fierce and highly-rated sophomore record, ‘Holy Shit’.
It hasn’t been plain sailing since then either, with multiple band members departing, including previous frontman Stu Ross, leaving guitarist Chris Brenneman to fill the void.
Yet, after so long and with so much excitement over their return, how does ‘Island’ live up to its own hype? The answer is: it’s a bit complicated.
‘Island’ paints the picture of difficult scenarios that the group have encountered in recent times across some punchy, cathartic pop-punk. Straight in with the one-two hit of ‘All The Same’‘s scorching opening into the pounding, jumpy rhythms of ‘Second Narrows’ get the album off to a solid start. Yet, after a few more songs in, the record starts to get a little stale.
It’s not necessarily that the band have written bad songs, it’s just that with so much pop-punk doing the rounds nowadays, the record just begins to fall into the category of ‘just another pop-punk album.’ Tracks like ‘Tidal Wave’, ‘Dusty Records’, and ‘Plastic Flowers’ – to name a few – are good, bouncy tracks, but they just feel like song formulas that have been done so many times before.
Brenneman does a tidy job of replacing Ross, with a spitty, angst fueled performance across the album’s relentless 12 tracks fitting the tone of both the album and the band’s sound. There are also moments where the group reach for a slightly different take on the overdone pop-punk noise, like the titular and final track, which plays around with some gentle, organ-sounding synth, as well as the slow burning ‘Interlude’, which eases into a coursing riff on an almost semi-ambient moment. The high-tempo pop-punk is okay for so long, but it’s moments like these which showcase the band’s talent and grander side.
‘Island’ isn’t a bad pop-punk album, it’s just one that fails to standout in an overcrowded genre. That’s not necessarily a problem that Living With Lions are responsible for at all, but at this stage, the amount of similar records are just finding themselves lost within a sea of others.