“God’s favourite fucking boy band” are no strangers to doing their own thing. Colour-coded eras, electronic-punk-pop blended into a monster mash of genres, and a comedic, all-caps persona capitalised by the charismatic Awsten Knight – it’s no surprise that Waterparks are such a success.
Album number three, ‘Fandom’, comes after the band ditched their initially planned third record (titled ‘Friendly Reminder’) early in 2019 in favour of a complete rewrite. While we have little idea of what that particular record may have sounded like, the eventual album we got certainly lives up to the band’s typically high standards of whacky inventiveness and sugar-sweet hooks – hitting up enough styles in superbly innovative ways that make it hard to classify just what genre the three-piece even fall under anymore.
Arguably the best numbers on offer are ‘Dream Boy’ and ‘Easy To Hate’ – two tracks that epitomise the nature of the band, with bubble-gum pop-rock that’s spiked with witty lyricism and boosting electronic elements. The only minor bugbear is a track like ‘Cherry Red’, that’s such typical of this and the band’s best work isn’t long enough to explore the excellent hook of “Cherry red, you know I’d die for you.”
As the title suggests, much of Knight‘s lyrics concentrate on the nature of ‘fandoms’ and fan culture, or what it means to be in the music industry more generally. Lead single, ‘Watch What Happens Next’, is a stern assessment on the expectations of labels and fan reception to trying new ideas across a thumping three-minute wonder, while similar ideas are shared on the bouncy ‘I Miss Having Sex But At Least I Don’t Wanna Die Anymore’ – a title worthy of being on an early Panic! At The Disco record – and the self-referential ‘War Crimes’, a song as spiky as it is saccharine.
Yet, it’s not all putting music culture to the sword; ‘Fandom’ also takes the throne as one of 2019’s best break-up albums. Knight is open in his vividly colourful exploration of the range of emotions experienced at the end of relationships, from the lack of connection on the belting aforementioned ‘Easy To Hate’, regretful rage on tech-fuelled number ‘Turbulent’, feeling emotionally torn on the bar-festered ‘[Reboot]’, and a lost sense of self on ‘Never Bloom Again’. His lyricism and songwriting have long been high quality, and that’s repeated no end here.
‘Fandom’ is no doubt Waterparks‘ most varied and personal record, and another welcome addition to their already pretty stellar discography.