The Front Bottoms - In Sickness & In Flames (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

The Front Bottoms

In Sickness & In Flames (2020)

fueled by ramen

If you're a fan of The Front Bottoms, you should consider that folk/indie/acoustic era totally dead. And it's not a bad thing to accept because art involves evolution and experimentation, and while it even took me a while to get accustomed to TFB's pop-mainstream aura, it's a jacket worn pretty damn well as In Sickness & In Flames shows.

Whereas the likes of Talon of the Hawk were a bit more personal, intimate, stripped down and well, emo, since Back on Top, they're been a lot more anthemic and chorus-driven, which became all too obvious off songs like "Historic Cemetery". And what convinced me these could work was hearing them live and seeing the fan-base react, which made me realise the magic of old is still there -- earnest lyrics, heartfelt emotion etc. -- but it's just packaged differently.

Here, tracks like "jerk", "Fairbanks, Alaska" and "montgomery" are prime examples, going from epic shout-alongs to synth-driven jams that feel like Motion City Soundtrack meets Say Anything. "new song d" is another in this vein, which shows just how much vocalist Brian Sella wants to explore as the band continues to chart waters as a two-piece who've transformed into a full-on ensemble record-wise. And sure, there are love songs, bangers about depression and the whole coming-of-age schtick the band prides itself on, but the sound -- fuller and louder -- feels like adults who've grown up.

Again, look no further than "everyone blooms" and also "life pile," but ironically, these two represent a flaw in that I'd love for TFB to actually go full-blown alt. rock and make harder versions of them. I get that slow burns and piano-drive pop ballads like "leaf pile" might be perceived as better for a pandemic but TFB can do catchy, melodic ear-worms that resonate just as much even if they go a bit heavier. I mean, they've already got that Andy Hull meets Kevin Devine ebb and flow on "the truth" and again, "leaf pile" is proof that there's something here for those who wanna try indie-moshing so why not? If TFB dirty up their sound, even with tracks like "camouflage" I can see a whole new wow factor and degree of respect gained from people who think they're playing it safe.

Right now, they've got that Netflix romcom soundtrack down or maybe even something for HBO's Euphoria, but I can tell there's still a next gear to kick into and I can't wait to see what it is. Who knows -- maybe they can even take old songs like "Flashlight", "Twin Size Mattress" and "Swimming Pool" for that rougher spin someday, but for now, let's enjoy their message which is to kick back and soak in the light while we can before the world burns down.