With a tone and outlook so charming and personal that it makes you feel like they’re right next to you in your living room, New Jersey duo The Front Bottoms are the comforting hot water bottle that gives you that consistently warm, fuzzy feeling and can rely on again and again.
Brian Sella and Mat Uychich have delivered another record full of friendly story-telling lyrics and mischievously charismatic melodies that are screaming out for global recognition. ‘In Sickness & In Flames’ is as experimental as it is familiar, and is another album to add to their already impressive run of home run releases.
We’re greeted with the familiarity of lead singles ‘Everyone Blooms’ and ‘Camouflage’ to set the scene, with the former sticking to a tried and tested The Front Bottoms formula; easing us in with a minimalist beginning before throwing us into subtly crafted verses and chorus with gang vocals. It’s the bridge that really shows Sella at his exceedingly high best, with emotionally repeated lines that are topped by the distress heard in his voice.
‘Camouflage’ is up there with the best you’ve ever heard from The Front Bottoms. It’s got thick acoustic chords, a peacefully transcending chorus, and immediately repeatable lyrics for that instantly addictive sound.
The story telling through often gives a nostalgic look back into Sella‘s past, but coerces us into feeling like we’re the ones reminiscing. ‘Montgomery Forever’ makes even the most mundane of lines sound engrossing and endearing, with the vocal melodies proving that they’re such an essential part of how The Front Bottoms set the tone in different tracks.
‘Leaf Pile’ is louder and more aggressive, but the vocals commandeer the tone halfway through the song with a spoken word section that turns the whole experience on its head, and ‘Bus Beat’ has a jagged hook with pedestrian singing that creates a completely new sound for the band that somehow works. A brave auto-tune on the almost 90s sounding ‘Jerk’ is sure to divide old fans and new, but it’s catchy as hell and moulds in with the album effortlessly.
In our ever-changing 2020 landscape, at least we know that we can always rely on The Front Bottoms to delivery brilliance in any global climate. ‘In Sickness & In Flames’ is maturely melancholic while energetically adolescent, and the perfect soundtrack to road trips, break ups, beach holidays, indie movies, winter nights by the fire, or anything else that life could possibly throw at you.
This album won’t make you feel like a kid again, but it will make you feel young for your age and, sometimes, we all need that in our lives.