The Front Bottoms return to form with fifty minutes of a modernised take on early-2010s indie-rock nostalgia.
If you’ve ever cuffed a pair of chinos, you know New Jersey indie-rock duo The Front Bottoms. Well, they’re back in style with a new album to accompany your candle-lit night-time dives into your own psyche. With powerful lyrics and some simple earworm choruses, In Sickness & In Flames is the Front Bottoms looking at their initial work through a modern lens and doing so spectacularly.
In a year where alternative bands are really shifting their styles and evolving, it’s actually quite refreshing to see The Front Bottoms going back to their 2011 roots, especially after their last album, which many thought of as a departure from their classic style. Their new producer, Mike Sapone ushers in this thicker, more developed version of the old Front Bottoms sound and really breathes a new life into the style that made the group who they are today.
Opening with ‘everyone blooms’, the album’s theme of self-love and moving on is immediately evident in stunning fashion. A truly brilliant first track leads the way for an album fit to burst with great messages of personal growth and improvement that are delicately and lovingly dealt with. Right from the off, In Sickness & In Flames feels like an album from a band that has matured with its audience and is proud of what it’s become.
Despite this return to form, the album lacks that one stunning track to captivate the alternative music scene like ‘Twin Sized Mattress’ did in 2013. Regardless, the album is chock full of quality songs to populate your ‘chillout’ and ‘emo bangers with entirely lowercase titles’ playlists alike. ‘montgomery forever’ is the standout hit, and it’s super poppy chorus is sure to stick in listeners’ heads for at least the rest of the day.
Similarly, the killer opening guitar riff of ‘leaf pile’ is a wicked hook for a proper Front Bottoms wailing banger, and ‘Fairbanks, Alaska’ has a wonderful acoustic backing that would be more than welcome at any campfire, regardless of whether you’ve ever stepped foot in the state, or seen Aurora Borealis yourself.
The Front Bottoms have this impeccable ability to make you feel like you’re relating to every one of their expertly crafted lyrics, and with breakup tunes like ‘camouflage’ they have you missing exes you didn’t even know you had. Lines like “and to think I was having a nervous breakdown / the same time you were painting your walls” capture that absurd dark comedy so prevalent in The Front Bottoms’ lyricism in brilliantly singable pre-choruses. While some of the lines can come across as cheesy early-tumblr text posts, there are some gems amidst the cheddar.
Brian Sella’s self proclaimed “nervous” vocal style that often sounds like what would happen if La Dispute used their inside voices, lends itself well to these sappy lyrics, and his performance on ‘jerk’ is cuttingly catchy but simultaneously empathetic. The Front Bottoms’ songs always feel like an uncomfortably deep session of self introspection, and with lyrics like “shouldn’t think about my own life / cause the only thing I’m wasting is my own time” this has never felt so true.
Though this album lacks that secret something, that feeling in your chest, or that goosebumps moment, In Sickness & In Flames is a quality return to that addictive Front Bottoms indie-rock style of yesteryear. With some fantastic singles, stunning lyricism and incredible production, this album is a quality use of fifty minutes. Equally as good as some chill background music or as an accompaniment for some well-earned positive self reflection, The Front Bottoms have done what they do best in making you feel like you’re still thirteen for another year, in the best way possible.
In Sickness & In Flames is available now through Fueled By Ramen. Check out the video for ‘montgomery forever’ below!