O V E R V I E W
Before we start this off in earnest, let’s just get this single, seemingly uninspired thought of the way that’s become repeated ad-naseum as of late with “oh yay, change”. This has been one of the most common and recurring themes in music throughout the past few years and based on upcoming unveiled projects, it’s not slowing down anytime soon. It probably feels more prevalent as of late as music tends to shift in massive waves with bands growing up and styles going from one thing to the next. On top of the seemingly never ending wave of change going upending many of the biggest genres and artists, this has also served as a ridiculous year for pop punk as every week seems to see a new release with more left to come. And I think that’s where the biggest driver of this notion of change is coming from. Gone are the days of pop punk albums riddled with topics of relationships, loving and hating your town and the “love of pizza” and in its place are topics that expand on life, the surroundings of the members who make up the band and much more. This inevitably mixes things up in hopes of making something great which is where UK pop punk outfit WSTR find themselves with their aptly named sophomore effort, Identity Crisis; a record that could not be more appropriately named and reflective of the content within and the genre they represent.
F L O W / L O N G E V I T Y / O R I G I N A L I T Y
One of the great parts of Identity Crisis lies within its flow; especially as many of the songs tend to really show different sides to the band and explore upon the foundation of what WSTR was hoping to accomplish with their sophomore effort. Opening up the album is “Tell Me More”, which offers a sound similar to something found on Red, Green or Inbetween. This sound somehow transitions incredibly well into the alternative and dance vibes found on “Crisis” and “Bad To the Bone” and becomes in my opinion, the highlight of the album. Mixing different styles, no matter how simplistic and similar they are is no easy feat and with tracks like “Silly Me”, “Hide Everything Sharp” and “Ashtray” finding a strong place in the cohesion of Identity Crisis goes to show that WSTR nailed the approach taken.
With that being said, the longevity and originality aspects of the album don’t shine as brightly. For as much as there is that’s unique and for as well as it cohesively came together, there’s also some duds, such as “Bad To the Bone” and “The Latest” that try too hard to be different. Additionally at 11 tracks and just over 35 minutes, there’s only a handful of songs that really drive me to revisit them, unlike on what Red, Green or Inbetween offered up. There’s something to be said for taking a more simplistic approach, but it ends up coming across as to blasé when the tracks rely on a poppy, fun guitar riff, toetapping rhythm, sing-a-long choruses and not much else resulting in a record that sounds different, but the same.
V O C A L S / I N S T R U M E N T A T I O N
Vocally, WSTR are on point from start to finish. Sammy Clifford delivers with an extremely strong performance throughout and his vocals, combined with some of the more upbeat and rhythmic instrumentation really brings a different level of swagger to the band. This is particularly highlighted in the moments where his vocals are more isolated, such as during the opening of “Promiscuous” and “Silly Me” or “See You In Hell”. Relying on mostly an acoustic backing for half the song, the latter track showcases an improved range with a less breathy approach that ultimately shows why the band has deviated sonically as Sammy’s vocals fit a wide variety of styles much better now than they did before. And as mentioned earlier, the instrumentals on Identity Crisis offer more than a typical pop punk album as they deliver poppier moments that get your feet moving while also bringing forward some scorching riffs that will linger in your head for days, but tend to feel like they cross over from track to track.
C O M P O S I T I O N / P R O D U C T I O N
When WSTR announced Identity Crisis, they indicated that they added multiple genres into their sound while trying to keep the roots of what made them. The record was about putting the simple things together well and trying to make them great. For having such a definitive outcome in mind, it does feel partially rushed; almost if at times they were struggling on how to truly make those simple things great. Fortunately those times are few and far between as the vast majority of the album has fun, upbeat memorable moments that will strike the right chord for fans that simply want something that deviates from the typical lyrical content of pop punk but still delivers something wholly enjoyable. On the production side, the band reunited with Seb Barlow and the outcome is a record that blasts through the speakers with the perfect balance of tempo and energy that will play extremely well with live crowds.
F I N A L T H O U G H T S
As mentioned at the beginning of this review, Identity Crisis is a very appropriately titled album and finds WSTR in a unique place. This became even more prevalent to me as I was a large fan of Red, Green or Inbetween upon immediate listen and Identity Crisis, even after many listens still hasn’t grabbed me in the same way. It’s clear that after multiple member changes, the guiding light for the band has shifted, and while that’s expected, there’s the lingering feeling of misguidedness as they’re searching for what they want to be. With the current way the music industry is reshaping, especially many artists within the same genres, this is ultimately a reflection of the current times we live in and can be thought of as growing pains to get to the best place possible for each band. Unfortunately with Identity Crisis, WSTR is not there yet.