After the success of 2011's Let's Cheers to This, I expected a fairly similar follow-up from Sleeping With Sirens, but I didn't get that. Feel, released last week, almost feels a little too laboured and repetitive, sometimes straying a little too far out of familiar waters, which we can probably thank their enormous new fanbase for. I'm all for a band searching for a new image, but to me, it seems half of the time SWS has tried too hard and looked in all the wrong places. But when they've stuck to what they know, they've produced some crackers.
The majority of the album lacks the emotional anchors that fans took on board with their previous offerings. Gone are the meaningful, touching lyrics, and replaced with a chorus comprising of one word. Repeated over and over. From the clichés of Feel and Here We Go through the predictability of Deja Vu to the uneventful Low ('Don't make me feel low'? Really?!), the album doesn't always get it right, but we can't expect all 11 tracks to push every button.
Most remarkable is the heaviness of The Best There Ever Was, which was unexpected to say the least, and didn't exactly fit in with the rest of the album's ethos, but maybe it was a good idea to throw in just one loaded track for good measure. Still, I'm not convinced it suits them, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed this isn't their attempt to test the water and see if loyal fans would accept a move toward more heavy material.
Despite the lack of lyrical quality, Kellin's vocals are unmistakeable and when you hear his high notes, it's possible to forgive the thoughtless writing. Less time spent repeating the best lyrics effectively shaking off their sparkle, more time treasuring Kellin's gorgeous top notes, agreed? Also, the guitars are still as good as always, although this album definitely needs more solos to showcase them, as the tech-y effects drown them out too often.
The entire album seems to cover the past, present and future of the genre - I felt a little old school My Chemical Romance in These Things I've Done, I even noticed an Avril Lavigne atmosphere with Satellites while Congratulations presumably predicts the future of pop-punk. Don't get me wrong, I love Matty Mullins as much as the next person, but Congratulations won't be a song I'll be going back to anytime soon.
Despite all this, I can see this album becoming a lasting anthem purely because of the standout I'll Take You There and Sorry, which opens with a piano and faithfully returns to what brought SWS their fame - the heartstring-tugging remorseful ballads that make a crowd scream and clap along. Free Now drags out emotions I hadn't used in a while, a stark reminder of the value of family and that their future is in our hands, making this my favourite track from the album.
This is pop-punk, it's hit and miss. When it misses, it misses by a mile, but when it hits, it hits you right in the feelings.