5 Seconds of Summer are the band that wrote the song about American Apparel underwear – the Australian version of Busted that brought rock back onto the radio for a brief period of time. However, their signature cheeky pop-punk is completely missing on their latest album, Youngblood. The title track, an Australia chart-topper, is atmospheric with twinkling guitars, synths and an explosive chorus of, ‘Youngblood, say you want me.’ It’s catchy, but it lacks any sort of uniqueness or personality, so much so that it could be mistaken for a Maroon 5 or Fall Out Boy song.
The other single released, Want You Back, also panders to what seems to be a more ‘mature sound’, like their contemporaries Busted on Night Driver and All Time Low on Last Young Renegade. And while you can hear traces in the guitar of the chorus of Want You Back and boyband vocals, when Luke Hemmings sings, ‘Is it tears or just the fucking rain?’ it’s clear that this is a reinvention of the band.
If you’ve heard one song, you’ve heard the rest. Most tracks on the 50 minute deluxe album follows the same verse-chorus-verse-chorus formula, lacking a bridge, and the verses are almost always slow and moody while the choruses are incredibly catchy. Around halfway through the album, hints of rock music do seep into tracks, with loud drum fills and distorted guitars mixed into the forefront of the songs in a jarring fashion. The songs are pleasant listens, with elements of 80s pop mixed in (Lie To Me resembles The Police’s Every Breath You Take), yet they feel too calculated, without the charm that won over so many fans.
Despite the formulaic take on alternative pop, most of the songs bring something unique to the table. Some are more emotional than others, while Meet You There has a rave-worthy breakdown. In place of the Madden brothers and Alex Gaskarth, guest writers include pop moguls Steve Mac, Carl Falk and Teddy Geiger, and interestingly enough, Julia Michaels and Weezer’s River Cuomo. This feels unnecessary, as the band have proved competent enough with John Feldmann at the helm (both in terms of writing and production), and the new collaborators only add a glossy pop production that can feel disconnected.
It’s a compliment to the band that they are only in their early 20s – it’s easy to forget that they had a song about wanting to turn 18 on their debut album. 5 Seconds of Summer show they have only just begun to evolve and develop their music, and hopefully gain more fans.