The Front Bottoms - Back On Top (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

The Front Bottoms

Back On Top (2015)

Fueled By Ramen

The Front Bottoms aren't that alternative rock folky bunch of kids you knew back then. Is it because they're signed to Fueled By Ramen? I doubt. Over their last couple of releases you could tell they wanted to shift sound and capitalize on that Tumblr fanbase. Sure, Back On Top shimmers for fans of old with horns, warm keys and badass trumpets here and there but collectively, it leans so much more to the poppier side of punk. It deviates drastically from the past of "Swimming Pool", "Flashlight" and "Twin Size Mattress" but ultimately, it knows its worth, its ambition and what it intended to be. Pop. Something less focused on instrumentation and more on mass appeal.

I must say, off the bat though, the lyricism impressed me. Sure things do get way cheesy with too many toe-tappers, head-bobbers and singalongs on tracks like "2YL", "Motorcycle" and "Summer Shady" but for some reason, it doesn't get saturated or overbearing. I guess it's how they vary things which tracks like "HELP" in its synth-pop glory help to accomplish. But again, I can admit I miss the rawness, the yelps and of course, the gang/mixed vocals. They evoke much more passion and emotion that it really hurts when they're absent. Brian Sella (vocals) and Mathew Uychich (drums) feel so damn reserved at times that it's a bit frustrating. Even when Sella does his Tom DeLonge impression, which I usually catch a lot of kicks on, things fall a bit flat. But like I said, when they do churn out good stuff, it's really fun to sink your teeth into.

"Cough It Out" is one of those indie jams that feel set to a Michael Cera or Zach Braff scene where they're staring deep into the eyes of a girl who friendzoned them for the entire movie. Spunky and something to lay back to and smile. Then comes along "Historic Cemetery" which is a melodic alt. rock jam, heavily focused on guitar frenzies and a memorable rap outro from GDP a la Twenty One Pilots. These are two huge redeeming points. Much needed I should say. All in all, it feels like they've sold out but fuck it, because these guys deserve it. Every bit of success. They've done that indie/underground gig so well for so long that I think they're due their 15 minutes in the spotlight. TFB are magic. They'll always be a fun, cheesy, honest band I liked. Do they burn brightly here? Not as much as I expected but hey, I'll always have high expectations of them. Back On Top isn't a bad listen but it falls short of that benchmark they set in the past. Don't take it too seriously and you might actually find it growing on you...