“To say the least, truly disappointed”.
I quote here, a lyrical hero of mine, blasphemously ordained at the end of this review in a heated, coffee-fuelled conclusion that almost saw my hands reduced to bloodied stumps by aggressive typing. “How risqué,” you intone, “how edgy”. Well I’m sorry – but I feel the need to take liberties. Because from the word “go”, 5 Seconds of Summer take nothing short of the reverent piss with this deceptively titled plethora of dumb pop-punk travesties, that neither sound nor feel anything remotely similar to the qualitative concept of good (nice try, Capitol Records).
I begin, out of desperation, in the beginning. The listener is a mammoth twenty seconds deep into opener Money before any music plays. Presumably, the banal studio banter beforehand is some artistic statement – we all of course know how important it is to open an LP with a discussion on whether there is enough time for indulging in a cupcake; we do so love to be kept on tenterhooks as the drummer rushes over to his kit, pleading with the band to wait for him before they start. As if they might begin playing without him.
Not that you’d notice.
Not that you’d care.
5 Seconds of Summer’s apparent skill is in saying everything about nothing at all, to which every edition of this record is a testament (the massive seventeen-track deluxe version is only three songs longer than the standard cut). But one has to hand it to them – there’s not another act in pop-punk that does this quite so well as 5SOS.
At least contemporaries One Direction don’t purport to be anything more than that which they are; the good-looking façade of a crack, major-label song-writing team, assembled with the intention of clawing deep into the purses of young girls and reaping the monetary glory, openly and shamelessly. There is no pretense – there is only daylight robbery and fabricated social media scandal. But 5SOS are that much worse, aren’t they? They play their own instruments; they have a hand in the songwriting. They can summon an enjoyable chord progression (e.g. that excellent, fuzzy pre-chorus on 2014’s Don’t Stop).
The situation here however, is bleak. When track 1 finally starts, the first line is a twisted, morally-whack and mirrored appropriation of their brainwashed fans’ wrongly informed sentiments – “Take my money” they scream, “Take my money”. Those cynical, cynical bastards. On She’s Kinda Hot, the band employ their trademark technique of utilising poor lyrics to shag the enjoyable qualities out of their music; as with the unforgivable, “American apparel underwear” rhyme that debased the punky chord progression of their 2014 breakthrough single, She Looks So Perfect, here it’s the vandalising of a bluesy riff by the clumsy repetition of phrases ending in “though” (“she’s kind of hot though”; “he’s got a shot though”; and lastly, “we’re alright though,” clumsy phraseology that no enlightened child of the post nu-metal era would use ever). It just sounds dumb.
By track 3, I at least, am exhausted. 5SOS transcend their vacant idiocy and instead begin a merciless campaign of sonic pillage. Hey Everybody! is a straight-up theft of the vocal melody from Duran Duran’s classic Hungry Like The Wolf; Permanent Vacation takes its galloping rumpus from Green Day’s seminal Longview; Jet Black Heart, perhaps most strangely, desires to copy every aspect of the widely-loathed U2, from raucous stadium jangle riffage to grossly fake sentimentality (With or Without You, Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of et cetera, et cetera).
This continues, more or less uninterrupted, for a whopping fifty-one minutes, through swathes of the yet more unremarkable. I zoned out somewhat after the Westlife-meets-West-Ham ethereal emptiness of Invisible – I can’t tell you much about the rest of the LP, suffice to say that nothing was so interesting that it conjured me from the coma-state the album’s uniquely dire coalescence put me in.
The single saving grace here (if you can even call it that) was Fly Away, a radio-friendly All Time Low rip-off that satisfyingly appropriated the pop-iconology “a New York state of mind” into the chorus, whilst showcasing a just-likeable pop-punk, loud-quiet-loud dynamic through some good chords and Billie-Joe Armstrong-esque shouts of “Hey” – oh, and of course, a signature chorus tempo-shift. But even then, this song was only just likeable; at best, another re-hash of She Looks So Perfect. Take it for what it is: a half-decent moment of mere discomfort on an album whose remainder is otherwise entirely agonizing. If we reflect that sentiment in the math, then the band score 0.5⁄14, which translates on the PearShaped rating scale to 0.17857142857⁄5.
“That’s a bit harsh,” I initially think, “Let me listen a second time – to be fair, y’know?” But thirteen seconds in, some dickhead’s off on one about cupcakes again and the enshrined St. Morrissey is forced to descend from the musical heavens and round the score down to 1 decimal place.
“Goodnight, and thank you”. He flutters away.