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Home & Away,
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This review is from: Welcome Home Armageddon (Audio CD)
Many refer to this as much heavier than anything they've done in the past, and in part this is true. However the main difference is pace more than clout. What FFAF have done is create a near perfect pop-punk record. The thoughtful tracks are still here (and they are in some ways far better than anything they've delivered on past albums) but the driving force behind the album is one of urgency and power. Strange as their back catalogue has not been hurt for the lack of shine and sparkle in a song, whereas here they lay the sunshine on thick. In a way it is a triumph but at best it is merely a very good pop-punk album and almost feels like a step back to the early 00s where bands like New Found Glory did this kind of thing equally as well.
The opener is an instrumental calm-before-the-storm and is rather nice. Which erupts into 'Old Hymns', and pop-punk stylings are the name of the game. It's a sufficient, if not truly memorable, track. Actually every opening track on every one of their past albums have been considerably better. 'Front Row Seats To The End of The World' is better, containing a better chorus, but is much the same format and the 2 tracks are easily interchangeable and therefore makes them less worthy on their own. It when 'Sixteen' arrives when we see the album start to move into gear. Again, it's no great departure from the sound set up with the first 2 tracks proper but it's a better structured song and the FFAF of old rears its head. 'Aftertaste' sounds like FFAF DOING pop-punk as opposed to them following the format. It's an upbeat, to-tapping beauty of a 3 minute track and a lesson in how to write this sort of stuff. From here on it sounds like the band are truly settling in an owning the sound as opposed to the opposite. It's got a great chorus too. 'Spinning Over the Island' is the first masterpiece of the album. It's intricate and progressive while being effortlessly breezy and catchy, with hooks aplenty and it's 5 mins plus running time doesn't feel overstayed.
'Man Alive' is another catchy 3 minute affair and starts off being quite boring until you realise that the tune is stuck in your head. Forever. 'Owls are Watching...', akin to it's odd but quite excellent title, is odd and quite excellent. It's a slow burner with a rousing chorus of the 'History' ilk and is the second true classic here. Wonderful and pure FFAF. 'Damed if You Do...' is another pop-punk extravaganza that isn't quite as good as the others, especially coming on the back of 'Owls...'. It's not bad, just not great. 'Medication' is another great tune with a whopping chorus. It's gentler than most of the other tracks and belongs to the 'thoughtful' side of the band's writing. 'Broken Foundation' is a bit like 'Damned...' but with a better chorus. And the title track is another winner that is half pop-punk par excellence and half thoughtful, strummy, acoustic, mellow FFAF.
As a whole it works well and has a consistent feel throughout, like most of their albums really. But, as I mentioned earlier, it does sound like a step back in terms of progression and they do do post-hardcore much better than pop-punk - although they are pretty good at both. These are minor quibbles as the vast majority of songs here are good to fantastic, but they have the ability (both technically and creatively) to be making momentous, seminal albums instead of under-the-radar ones like this.