There’s an interesting dynamic that exists between fans and musicians when it comes to an artist releasing an album. Putting it bluntly, the debut seems to garner the most focus, because if a debut delivers, the expectation is that the following releases will do the same, typically in the same style. If the debut falters, the fanfare dissipates and when the next release comes, no matter how great it is, it tends to have less of an impact and lands with a thud. This extra emphasis on a debut from fans tends to drive artists to take their time, resulting in something that is usually outside the normal album cycle. When it comes to the follow up, most albums fall into a two-year creation cycle from writing to recording to mixing and master. This more expedited process can result in a rather unexpected style or approach, especially for artists who simply aren’t used to this tightened window. That brings us to Richmond, Virginia pop punk outfit Broadside who released their beloved debut album, Old Bones to much acclaim in September 2015. Fast forward almost two years and their follow up, Paradise, is now upon us and with it, a slightly new sound and approach that may ultimately leave some wondering what changed.
Paradise is an amalgamation of the styles and sounds that have taken the pop punk scene by storm over the past decade. That is, it relies less on the tropes of the genre and more so blends sounds that are distinctly from both pop and punk and in this case, leaning more towards the pop side of the spectrum. Opening up the record is “Hidden Colors”, which gives a solid idea of what we’re talking about – instrumentally it has a punk flair to the guitar tones and drums while having a slight whimsical, poppy edge in the vocal delivery that shows off their take on the genre fully. This approach retains prominence throughout the first four tracks, all of which bounce and flow with an airy, summery vibe that throws away the grittier nature of Old Bones for a stab at the more fun, upbeat aspects of music. “Paradise” sees a heavy reliance on electric guitars and subtle, backing electronics while “Lose Your Way” provides the feel-good theme of overcoming life’s obstacles and going after what you want. These differences in sound throughout the first four tracks keep the sound feeling fresh and varied from the typical pop punk style, but also deviate the sound further into the pop rock realm, which will inevitably be off-putting to some.
Broadside “Hidden Colors” is from the album, Paradise, available now.
Continuing the varied and differentiating style is “Laps Around a Picture Frame”, which fully embraces the label of pop rock by opening up with budding synths that eventually fade behind the music as the track builds with a raw, emotional vocal delivery that makes it one of the more memorable tracks on the album. The initial sound from the first third of the album returns with “Who Cares?” and “Tunnel Vision” with some more aggressive elements found in the latter track before Broadside strip everything back on “Summer Stained”. This is the point where the talent and composition on Paradise truly shine as like the flip of a switch, Broadside seamlessly transition from the softer, emotional moments to something like “Miss Imperious” which ramps the energy back up with toe-tapping, rhythmic instrumentation, gang vocals and a strong guitar solo. Following that up, they delve into one of the most punk driven songs on the record with politically derived “Puzzle Pieces” and then once again tone it down with the breezy, tropical stripped back “I Love You, I Love You. It’s Disgusting”.
While it may not be the gritter, edgier follow up some had hoped for, Broadside have released a refreshing take on the genre that balances both sides of the genre label equally and one that doesn’t lose its luster due to lackluster delivery or repetitiveness. Whether it’s the differentiating thematic approach to the record, ranging the over-reliance on social media to living with anxiety or the varied musical offerings that result in an album that opens up going 100 and ends on a tropical island, Paradise is an album that needs to be heard. Even though it may not be reinventing the wheel, this is a record that will definitely pave the way for new approaches to a genre that tends to output more stagnation than others, which in the long run benefits both other artists and fans alike.