Amidst tours and releases from their respected bands, Blink 182's Mark Hoppus and All Time Low's Alex Gaskarth finally got around to a previously discussed collaboration. The result in six pop/synth songs under the moniker Simple Creatures.
Strange Love crashes open with fuzzy bass tones and Hoppus' traditional catchy acrobatic melodies with opener "Drug," handing the chorus duties to Gaskarth. The droning pace of the song is a nice introduction to the project's potential, and Alex's ability to emote vocally allows the choruses to really heighten the dynamics. My lone complaint being a quite tacky, (albeit predictable,) "nah-nah-nah" hook. It is so digitally processed that it negates the dirty bass guitar and any seriousness behind the writing.
Title track "Strange Love" follows the same theme, from the duties of Mark's verses to Alex's choruses, but, too, suffers from a tacky hook ailment that borders a Tarzan noise this time around. "How to Live" offers a slower pace, directed predominately by Gaskarth. The song mirrors later, more mature, All Time Low deep cuts, and is a nice departure from the more shallow-ended lyrics that Mark Hoppus is limited to.
"Adrenaline" is absolutely the best writing of the six, offering Cure-influenced clean guitar leads, and a pounding drum loop. The track is rich with hooks, dynamics, ambiance, and a tremendous dropout bridge that hammers the tempo over dissonance, and borrows from the fundamentals of a decent New Order tune. In a norm of half-assed "lyric videos" the song also comes complete with an actual music video, and one of the more thoughtful band productions I have sat through in a long time.
"Ether" is a memorable song, and a standard Hoppus slow jam. A layer of acoustic guitar is glazed over the electronic mix, taking the EP to another region of the duo's potential. The 20 minute album completes with "Lucy," adding spoken word lines, and a range of vocal styles, and is a nice, honest closer.
Shelving all modern day Blink criticism, the biggest takeaway from Strange Love is that it is un-apologetically pop. The Simple Creatures name does not hide behind a punk rock nameplate, and to consider how processed and plastic both of the contributor's day jobs have become over the years, it is refreshing to listen to them just go for it without pretending to be something they are not.