Illinois based pop-punks Real Friends have had a tough time of late. The band faced many struggles with frontman Dan Lambton‘s mental health, which has impacted the band over the course of a year, leading the group to cancel all upcoming shows and take a brief, but unofficial hiatus. Thankfully, only a few months later, the five-piece are back and better than ever with their confident and cathartic third LP, ‘Composure’.
As you might expect, much of the lyrical content on the album focuses on Lambton‘s mental health, with particular attention on his experiences with bi-polar disorder and the effects it has on both himself and those around him. Bouncy lead singles ‘From The Outside’, ‘Smiling On The Surface’, and the album’s title-track nail these themes down to a tee, as an honest Lambton reveals how he pretended he was fine despite his inner turmoil.
Elsewhere, tracks like ‘Stand Steady’ and ‘Get By’ focus on recovery, while ‘Unconditional Love’ details the strain that these issues put on certain relationships. The quintet should be highly praised for their bravery and honesty in their lyricism, as it’s a key factor in the much ‘Composure’‘s success.
Instrumentally the album is top notch too, with plenty of catchy choruses and a bouncy pop-rock feel that lifts the mood above its somber thematic content. Apart from the previously mentioned singles, tracks like ‘Ripcord’ and opener ‘Me First’ captures the jumpy, energetic sound that the band are clearly going for and do so extremely well. Vocally, Lambton adds an extra bit of grit in his performance, as if the deeply personal nature of the songs require him to pour his all into his delivery.
There’s also an added polish on the production of ‘Composure’ that we haven’t heard on a Real Friends record previously. Where the band’s last two records focused on the raw side of recording, their third effort is stylishly put together by producer Mike Green, and the extra clarity and detail allows the choruses to sound bigger and each instrument to shine individually.
In comparison with Real Friends‘ last two releases, ‘Composure’ is a far, far better record and shows a sure sense of artistic direction. Upbeat, groove-filled tracks mask the seriousness of the lyrics and themes of mental illness, but in a manner that gets the message across without being overly pessimistic or gloom-ridden. All in all, this is the real Real Friends that we’ve all been waiting for.